Contact: Doug Finch (315) 781-2030
Since 2009, I have continually warned about the growing threat that Albany unfunded mandates pose to taxpayers and local governments. Not only have I sounded the alarm, I introduced real legislative solutions to fix the problem. Countless meetings and discussions with local elected officials and school board members reinforced my belief that Albany unfunded mandates are the single biggest threat to the stability of local governments and the pocketbooks of taxpayers.
Without question, Albany unfunded mandates - the endless, often ridiculous, rules, regulations and bureaucratic red tape that State government imposes on local governments and school districts - are the driving force behind why New York still has some of the nation's highest property taxes, even with a property tax cap in place.
UNFUNDED MANDATES MEAN HIGHER PROPERTY TAXES
The inherent danger of an unfunded mandate is that it allows Albany politicians to keep passing their buck - along with their costs and their responsibilities - onto the backs of already overburdened local governments and struggling school districts by requiring them to start a program or provide a service without any State funding to defray the costs. Simply put, unfunded mandates allow Albany politicians to show their "good intentions" without having to pony up any funding or have any skin in the game.
In the real world - far outside the bubble of Albany - unfunded mandates translate into a terrible deal for local governments and local school districts that have no choice but to comply with Albany's edicts and pick up new program costs, which forces them to either cut essential local services (and personnel) or raise property taxes. The resulting property tax hikes hurt local homeowners and businesses that end up getting stuck with the tab for Albany's good intentions.
LOCAL TAXPAYERS, LOCAL GOVERNMENTS CAN'T AFFORD ALBANY POLITICIANS' "GOOD INTENTIONS"
When you realize that 90 cents of every County property tax dollar goes directly to Albany to pay for no less than 40 State-mandated programs, the need to deliver unfunded mandate relief becomes even more apparent - and urgent. Local governments and school districts have already cut their budgets to the bone and many taxpayers are struggling just to make ends meet in a tough economy; these folks cannot afford Albany politicians' good intentions.
COUNTIES PROVIDE A "ROADMAP" TO UNFUNDED MANDATE RELIEF
While I have been a strong voice calling for unfunded mandate relief, thankfully I have not been the only voice. Unshackle Upstate, New York's most influential taxpayer advocacy coalition, BEST4NY, a pro-taxpayer group located downstate, whose members I spoke to on the topic of unfunded mandate relief, and the New York State School Boards Association, who I partnered with, all have spoken out and offered real solutions to the unfunded mandate crisis.
In addition to these organizations, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC), a bipartisan municipal association serving the 62 counties of our state, recently released a report "A Roadmap to Mandate Relief," a series of rational, thoughtful, accountable cost savings proposals that state policymakers can implement to deliver real mandate relief. This report is a MUST READ for anyone who wants to know why essential local services continue getting cut, local teachers, police and firefighters continue being laid off, and why their local property taxes are so high.
Some of the mandate relief recommendations in NYSAC's Roadmap included the following:
- Implement a full State takeover of local Medicaid costs;
- State assumption of County Medicaid administrative expenses in a manner that does no harm for Medicaid recipients and County taxpayers;
- Give local school districts greater flexibility, input and incentives to reduce their costs of complying with preschool special education requirements; and
- Reexamine, reassess and restructure New York's public assistance programs, promote work requirements for adults and restore State administrative support for social service programs.
These solutions are just a snapshot and the report touches on other areas including public health, corrections and 9-1-1, pensions, funding for community colleges, audit and reporting requirements, child welfare, indigent defense and the early intervention program. You can read the report in its entirety at the NYSAC Web site and see NYSAC's complete mandate relief cost savings proposals.
TAXPAYERS MUST UNITE, SEND BIPARTISAN MESSAGE TO ALBANY: MANDATE RELIEF NOW!
New York's unfunded mandate crisis is a nonpartisan challenge that threatens all local governments, all school districts and all taxpayers, from the homeowner down the street, to the mom-and-pop small business down on Main Street. Policymakers played a role in creating New York's unfunded mandate mess and it's going to take a bipartisan approach to cleanup the problem. NYSAC's Roadmap to Mandate Relief will help solve this crisis and take New York in a better direction. The question remains, will Albany have the courage to follow this lead and make the bold decisions necessary to solve the problem? Time will tell - but the clock is ticking.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at email@example.com.