New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to balance the State budget by shifting the tax burden from taxpayers statewide to the taxpayers in New York’s local municipalities. Cuomo will deny that of course, but two of his recent initiatives seem to indicate that this is exactly what he is doing.
Last Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year. In his budget proposal, Governor Cuomo said that state aid to State government’s municipalities and cities would remain flat at $715 million the 2017 fiscal year that starts April 1. But Cuomo also said that the State mandated programs, which are forced on local municipalities by State law, will stay the same, even though the cost of some of those mandates goes up each year. This creates a problem for counties, towns and villages because State aid to municipalities has not increased since 2008.
Municipalities said that Cuomo’s proposed the budget does nothing to provide relief from expensive but unfunded state mandates. Towns and villages, such as Sweden and Brockport, are also struggling with the New York State imposed property-tax cap that limits tax increases to a miniscule 0.12 percent in the upcoming fiscal year.
Peter Baynes, the executive director of the state Conference of Mayors put it this way, “Although the less-than-1 percent tax cap may help slow increases in property taxes, the budget’s failure to provide additional unrestricted municipal aid — while at the same time increasing school aid by $1 billion — undermines our local governments’ ability to maintain the quality public services that are of equal importance to educating New York’s children and generating property tax relief.”
To show how hypocritical Governor Cuomo’s stance is, back in 2012 Cuomo signed Executive Order #6: Establishing the Mandate Relief Redesign Team, made up of private and public sector individuals charged with finding ways to cut the unfunded and underfunded state mandates that help make New York one of the most taxed states in the nation. However, other than reducing the Medicaid costs for counties, Governor Cuomo has done little to actually reduce the number of unfunded mandates statewide.
Former State Senator Terry Gipson, who represented the 41st District, which includes Dutchess and Putnam Counties, introduced a constitutional amendment, senate Bill S5126, which would prohibit New York State from handing down any additional unfunded mandates. Terry Gipson has firsthand knowledge of how the State’s unfunded mandates have a negative effect on local governments. Gipson live in Rhinebeck, where he was elected to two terms as a Village Trustee before he was elected to the state senate in 2012.
On September 29, 2015 State Senator Gipson discussed unfunded mandates at the village trustees’ meeting in the Village of Millbrook (near Kingston). At that meeting, Village Mayor Laura Hurley pointed out that the state Board of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) impose mandates that are difficult to keep up with, including unfunded mandates affecting water and sewers. The Village of Brockport Department of Public Works has to deal with similar unfunded mandates from New York State. New York State sets the rules on water quality and sewers, but it does not provide local municipalities with the money needed to pay for the cost of complying with those rules.
Instead, Cuomo has actively promoted competitions among local communities for state aid. New York State holds an annual competition that distributes $750 million a year to 10 regions of the state for economic development. Cuomo says the competition foster leadership, but it really seems to be a public relations gimmick designed to generate more press coverage for Cuomo.