Last Monday, I was invited to address the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) during their annual gathering in Albany. Having previously served in local government, and as the only Legislative Leader in state government who is talking about the urgent need for unfunded mandate relief, I was honored to again speak with friends at NYSAC.
My comments were a call to action for localities suffering under Albany's oppressive rules, regulations and red tape, along with their budget-busting price tag. Unfunded mandates occur whenever state government imposes rules that force local governments - a city, county, town, village or school district - to do something without providing any funding to pay for it. There aren't just "a few" of these rules, regulations and red tape - there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, here in the Empire State. Unfunded mandates include everything from asbestos management, school district paperwork, safety inspections, construction projects and just about every government program, policy and requirement you can think of - and even some you haven't!
UNFUNDED MANDATES FROM ALBANY ARE DRIVING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TOWARD BANKRUPTCY - AND DRIVING UP PROPERTY TAXES
While some of those obligated services may stem from "good intentions," they have nonetheless driven countless local governments and school districts to the verge of bankruptcy. City, county, town and village governments, to say nothing of local school districts, simply cannot afford to continue taking marching orders from the same folks in Albany who gave our state its $10 billion budget deficit. Unfunded mandates from Albany strain local budgets and lead to higher property taxes for local homeowners. Statistics prove this point:
New York has the highest local taxes in America as a percentage of personal income - 79 percent above the national average;
New York has the second highest combined state and local taxes in the nation;
Median property taxes paid by New Yorkers are 96 percent above the national median;
Property tax levies in New York grew by 73 percent from 1998 to 2008, more than twice the rate of inflation during that period;
When measured in absolute dollars paid, Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland are respectively the first, second and fifth highest-taxed counties in America; and
When property taxes were measured as a percentage of home value in 2009, nine out of the top ten counties in the nation were all located in Upstate New York.
U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: FEDERAL REGULATIONS COST BUSINESSES $1.75 TRILLION
As costly, confusing and cumbersome as Albany's unfunded mandates are, businesses operating in New York have it twice as bad; they must navigate another sticky web of complicated rules, regulations and red tape at the federal level. This regulatory web makes it even harder for companies to invest in their workforce and grow their operations. Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote that the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy has put the total price tag of complying with federal regulations at $1.75 trillion for 2008 (keep in mind that this was before the federal stimulus package or the new federal health care mandate). Folks, a trillion is a number with 12 zeroes behind it!
RULES, RULES AND MORE RULES
According to the Chamber, government compliance costs average out to approximately $15,500 for every American household. Also in 2008, the average regulatory cost to businesses was nearly $8,100 per employee and expenses are 36 percent higher for small businesses, which create 60 percent to 80 percent of all new jobs. Donohue also cited the Environmental Protection Agency's advancing 29 proposed major rules (and 173 others); the federal heath care law's creation of 183 new agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies; and the 2,400-page financial regulatory "reform" bill, which included almost 500 regulatory rule-makings, 60 studies and 93 reports.
Here's my question: how in the heck are private sector businesses - especially those operating here in New York State, where the cost of government is among the nation's highest - supposed to have the time and money to fill out all this paperwork, comply with all these government rules and still remain in business? It would take a miracle.
ENOUGH TO GOVERNMENT'S REGULATORY MADNESS!
Local governments, taxpayers and businesses have had enough of this regulatory madness! They refuse to continue being saddled with every whim, every program, every desire that politicians in Albany, N.Y., or Washington D.C., feel like imposing without any consideration of costs. I couldn't agree more, which is why I'm advancing a legislative agenda that would ban new unfunded mandates from Albany and temporarily suspend existing unfunded mandates. I also support the federal government moving forward with a top-to-bottom review of all rules and regulations impacting businesses.
Our economy is so complex, and competition from countries like China and India is so intense, we can't afford government's costly and job-destroying over-regulation. New York State, and the United States of America, are competing in a global economy. It's time that government at all levels stopped hurting and started helping.
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. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.