"As the 2011 Legislative Session enters its final week, the unresolved issue of unfunded mandate relief cannot wait - or be allowed to fall through the cracks in Albany as seems to happen every year. Delivering unfunded mandate relief that actually saves money for local governments and school districts is a must-do priority before session concludes June 20. Just as we have on the property tax cap, ethics reform and other unfinished business, the Assembly Minority Conference is also leading the fight in calling for action on unfunded mandate relief, this year, this session.
Unfunded mandates - the endless river of rules, regulations and red tape that Albany imposes on local governments and school districts that ultimately raises local property taxes - are true budget busters accounting for as much as 80 to 85 percent of many Counties' expenses, according to the New York State Association of Counties. Unless Albany does something to address these principal cost drivers, state government will simply keep passing its buck, and its costs, onto the backs of local governments, forcing local taxpayers to make up the difference. This vicious circle must be broken. The vast majority of local governments and school districts have already tightened their belts and reduced operating costs. Now, Albany needs to step up to the plate and actually deliver on the promise of unfunded mandate relief as our Conference and I have been urging for years.
Eliminating administrative mandates is a decent start, but we can, and should, go further. We have to deliver serious unfunded mandate relief that actually saves money for local governments and school districts. This means providing a moratorium on new unfunded mandates for as long as a property tax cap is in place; freezing County Medicaid costs; giving the Governor and state Legislature the power to repeal existing unfunded mandates; allowing localities to seek waivers from state government on specific unfunded mandates and enacting comprehensive pension reform. Equally important, we need a state spending cap to ensure state government tightens its belt as localities already have done. In fact, if a spending cap had been in place over the past 10 years, spending would have been $30 billion less this year. These are just some of the common sense steps we can take toward delivering unfunded mandate relief and addressing Albany's cost drivers that hurt local governments, school districts and taxpayers."