Only two legislative days remain in the 2011 Session as this column is being composed, so next week's edition will contain a detailed wrap-up highlighting the accomplishments from this year's session, while listing any unfinished business needing completion. The subject of this week's column is the issue of unfunded mandates - and my groundbreaking legislation that would give local governments, school districts and taxpayers real relief from Albany's cost drivers.
Over the past year, I have been meeting with countless local elected officials, school board members and taxpayers, listening to their concerns about what state government could do to stop hurting and start helping. During my meetings, I have consistently heard the same powerful message: we need REAL RELIEF from Albany's unfunded mandates, fiscal irresponsibility and mandated programs like Medicaid, along with rising health care, payroll and pension obligations. These budget-busting cost drivers are bankrupting localities, school districts and taxpayers - and threatening New York's long-term financial future.
These concerns are much more than an "issue" to me: as a former local elected official, I know firsthand the fiscal devastation caused by Albany's "pass-the-buck" mentality. This is why I am proud to announce my introduction of the most comprehensive unfunded mandate relief legislation ever advanced by a Legislative Leader in state government: the "Taxpayer Protection and Mandate Relief Act," Assembly Bill A.8447. This initiative would significantly address Albany's cost drivers and restore fiscal sanity to state government.
TAXPAYER PROTECTION & MANDATE RELIEF ACT: THE "GAME CHANGER" LOCALITIES, SCHOOL DISTRICTS & TAXPAYERS HAVE WAITED FOR
The Taxpayer Protection and Mandate Relief Act is the most sweeping initiative of its kind brought forward during this, or any other Legislative Session in recent memory. If you are a regular reader of my columns, you already know that I have been leading the fight to address Albany's unfunded mandates - the bureaucratic rules, regulations and requirements that state government imposes on local governments and school districts that significantly drive up costs. The unfunded mandate costs end up being passed on to local taxpayers who pick up the tab in the form of higher property taxes.
The legislation I introduced would provide a moratorium on new unfunded mandates for as long as a property tax cap is in place; freeze County Medicaid costs; give the Governor and state Legislature the power to repeal existing unfunded mandates; enact comprehensive pension reform; and enact many other positive changes. Here are some specific provisions of the Taxpayer Protection and Mandate Relief Act:
SUSPEND & REMOVE ALBANY'S UNFUNDED MANDATES
RESTORE FISCAL RESTRAINT TO STATE GOVERNMENT
REDUCE PUBLIC PENSION & PAYROLL OBLIGATIONS
REIN IN MEDICAID MANDATES
ADDRESS HEALTH CARE COSTS
CUT THE EXPENSE OF LOCAL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
PROVIDE RELIEF FROM STATE ADMINISTRATIVE & PAPERWORK REQUIREMENTS:
The Taxpayer Protection and Mandate Relief Act represents the first, serious step toward delivering real relief from Albany's unfunded mandates and would save billions by significantly reducing cost drivers for local governments, school districts and taxpayers. This legislation should mark the start of a much-needed adult conversation about dealing with Albany's unfunded mandates, reining in entitlement programs like Medicaid, and putting the brakes on major cost drivers like health care and pensions. If enacted, the legislation I advanced will reduce Albany's crushing burden on taxpayers and finally make good on the promise of a state government that is helping, not hurting.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.