State Mandates Continue To Paralyze Counties

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State Address last week sparked reactions at the local level about how recommendations from the governor’s speech can be implemented.

Cuomo said New York has been aggressive in trying to alleviate local costs, but has assumed more costs than the state has ever seen with aging localities and $1.2 billion in Medicaid growth.

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, who has long been a supporter of reducing property taxes, said the initiative is a key component for everyone in county and local government.

In order to fund state programs such as Medicaid, 90 cents of each county property tax dollar goes to Albany, Horrigan said.

“We want to provide every level of tax relief that we can and encourage New York state to do their part to reduce the unfunded mandates,” he added. “What’s important is reducing the local share costs of these mandated services so that we can preserve the very small portion, about 10 percent, that we in county, city and local government feel is so essential for our quality of life.”

Horrigan added that he and county executives statewide are currently identifying specific areas to be considered for cost reduction.

“It’s important to get specific on areas that we think are reasonable and practical at the county level,” he said, adding suggestions will eventually be presented to local leaders.

Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi strongly agreed with goals set forth by Cuomo last week, which included tax cuts for manufacturers.

“We need to start incentivizing collaborations and consolidations in government,” Teresi said. “Cuomo pointed out what we all know – there is too much duplication.”

The governor suggested consolidation of local governments, adding there are 10,500 in the state, and reduction would lower property taxes and proliferation of government, which he said is expensive and costly.

In a press release from the New York State Association of Counties, Deputy Director Mark F. LaVigne said mandate reform, property tax relief and the economy are the three most important issues facing New York state counties.

“These three issues are intertwined, and must be addressed together,” LaVigne said. “We cannot grow our economy without property tax relief, and we cannot have county property tax relief without state leaders reforming the way we fund and deliver major state programs such as pre-school special education, public assistance and Medicaid.”

In terms of property tax relief, Cuomo suggested putting a freeze on property taxes for two years in order to reduce costs for homeowners because of the burden taxes are on individuals, families and businesses in New York.