Tenney Puts Forth Proposal To Cut Millions In Unfunded Mandates To Protect Taxpayers

A Legislative Column from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R,C,I-New Hartford)
July 6, 2011
During the debate on the "Affordable Housing" omnibus legislation, regarding rent control and a property tax cap, I, along with my colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference, proposed an amendment to the bill that would have provided billions of dollars in long-term mandate relief to local governments and schools. The Assembly Majority defeated the amendment on the floor.

Because of excessive and unfunded mandates, New York has the unenviable distinction of having the highest property taxes in the nation. According to the independent, nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Oswego County ranks 13th and Oneida County ranks 19th in the nation for the highest property taxes as a percentage of home value. These taxes are devastating to seniors and other property owners struggling to survive in our region. More people have left New York in the last ten years than any other state in the nation. We have to take bold steps to reverse this trend.

The omnibus legislation that was ultimately passed included $127 million in mandate relief; but our mandate relief amendment, that was struck down by the Assembly Majority, could have saved more than twice that in just one year by eliminating future growth in Medicaid costs for counties, a measure that would save counties statewide approximately $165 million in additional savings in just the first year. Had this amendment been adopted, counties and ultimately taxpayers could save billions of dollars in the long term.

Throughout this legislative session we have been successful in bringing attention to the importance of unfunded mandate relief, which is a main source behind our state having the highest property taxes in the nation. But there is much more work to be done.

While a property tax cap will help limit how large property taxes can grow in the future, the cap does not reduce taxes or address the unfunded mandates that continue to drive up costs on local governments and schools. Albany must take more comprehensive action to lift these cost-drivers in order to reduce the tax burden, continue vital local services, ensure high-quality education, and protect our long-term economic viability.

For these reasons, I reluctantly voted in support of the omnibus bill, as it is only a start; but I will continue working for more serious mandate relief for Oneida and Oswego counties, which are among the highest taxed counties in the country.