Now Playing: “Godzilla” Versus The Taxpayers
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
January 21, 2011
Year after year, increasing property taxes drive thousands of New York families out of their homes and out of our state. Our homeowners endure the nation's second-highest combined state and local tax burden and, as if that weren't bad enough, nine of the ten highest property taxed counties in America - as a percentage of median home value - are located right here in upstate. Clearly, rising property taxes are a bad problem that is getting worse. ALBANY PASSES THE BUCK ONTO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS School districts and local governments provide essential services to their communities, but are often forced to raise taxes because of one thing they cannot control: unfunded mandates from Albany. In case you are wondering what exactly an "unfunded mandate" is, you are not alone. Basically, the term unfunded mandate is "Albany-speak" for whenever state government mandates (i.e., forces) that local governments do something - expand a program, offer a new service - but does not provide any funding for them to do so. This perpetual passing of the buck from Albany onto cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts has forced many to raise local property taxes to make up the shortfall. MEDICAID: "THE GODZILLA" OF MANDATES While a complete list of Albany mandates could easily fill several of my weekly columns, the "Godzilla" of all mandates is, without question, Medicaid. For readers old enough to remember the days of monster movies, the creature Godzilla was known as "King of the Monsters" (no offense to King Kong). That is why I refer to New York's Medicaid program as Godzilla, since it is "King of the Mandates." Medicaid is a government program created in 1965 that helps provide health care coverage for low income and impoverished individuals. Not to be confused with Medicare - the federally administered health insurance program that helps senior citizens - Medicaid is a joint federal-state-local program that has regrettably developed into a real budget buster for New York. MEDICAID COSTS HAVE SKYROCKETED Medicaid's costs in New York have skyrocketed over the past decade and become one of the largest cost-drivers for state and local government budgets. Just how steep of a financial toll does Medicaid impose? Try this on for size: New York's Medicaid spending per enrollee is America's second highest - a whopping 73 percent above average - and Medicaid costs alone account for more than half of the entire county tax levy. If those facts left you unconvinced, check out these additional statistics regarding Medicaid costs, provided by the independent, non-partisan Empire Center for New York State Policy based on the most recent data:
- With 6.4 percent of the nation's population and 8.7 percent of all Medicaid enrollment, New York accounted for 14 percent of all Medicaid spending;
- New York's $44 billion Medicaid program, including the local government share, was larger than the total budgets of 42 states;
- New York spent 25 percent more than California, whose Medicaid program covered twice as many people; and
- New York's federal, state and local Medicaid spending exceeded the Medicaid budgets of Florida, Texas and North Carolina - combined.