Katz, Eldridge & Smith Call For Property Tax Cap With Mandate Relief From Albany

June 6, 2011
Assemblyman Steve Katz (R,I-Yorktown), Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge and Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith were joined by area school district superintendents Tom Manko (Mahopac), Dr. Jane Sandbank (Brewster) and Dr. James Ryan (Carmel) at a press conference this morning calling on Albany to immediately enact a property tax cap that includes relief from Albany-imposed unfunded mandates, including those mandate relief recommendations submitted to the governor by the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) in February.

According to statistics provided by NYSAC, 90 percent of property tax revenue is spent on nine unfunded mandates imposed on local governments by Albany. With this year’s regularly-scheduled legislative session ending on June 20, state leaders have less than two weeks to finalize the property tax cap agreement and ensure mandate relief is provided in order to protect both taxpayers and local government services.

“Ensuring the safety of New Yorkers must always be the top priority. While recent polls have shown that the majority of New Yorkers want Albany to enact a property tax cap, the ‘agreement’ announced by Albany’s three men in a room includes no relief from unfunded mandates. Without mandate relief, vital emergency and public protection services could be at risk and that’s why we need to make sure that Albany doesn’t just pass another band-aid solution. We need a property tax cap, but we need to make sure that any legislation helps our state in the long run,” said Assemblyman Katz.

County Executive Eldridge said, “The proposed New York State property tax cap legislation, if adopted without corresponding reform of state-mandated programs, will economically cripple other critical county services. Nine state-mandated health and human service programs cost county governments $4 billion annually, or on average, 90 percent of the total county property taxes collected statewide. It’s time for the State to reduce its mandates on local government, adopting some of the 230- plus ideas generated by the leaders of county governments statewide and submitted to State leaders in February.”

Sheriff Smith said, “The two percent property tax cap is a great idea as long as it is accompanied by legislation that provides relief for counties and local governments from unfunded mandates. Without that kind of comprehensive legislation, local governments could be held hostage by the unfunded mandates and would face the grim choice of cutting vital services that effect public safety. This is a very important issue, and I am grateful that Assemblyman Steve Katz is fighting the good fight for all of us in Albany.”

To help ensure a balanced state budget, Assemblyman Katz held a series of public meetings and personal one-on-one discussions with local officials to discuss the impact of Albany-imposed mandates and to create a list of recommended mandate relief proposals. The freshman assemblyman submitted these ideas to the governor’s Mandate Relief and Redesign Task Force and they were included in their preliminary report.

At the same time, groups like NYSAC also made recommendations to the governor, in the hopes that their mandate relief ideas would be included in the final state budget. Some of the areas that NYSAC recommended removing or reducing unfunded mandates included Medicaid, public assistance and pension reforms, among other areas.

However, despite these efforts, the state budget was passed without mandate relief and, to date, none of the task force’s recommendations have been made to help offset the funding cuts enacted in the state budget, leaving local governments, schools, hospitals and law enforcement budgets in a bind.

Assemblyman Katz said, “With just a few days left, Albany cannot procrastinate any further. We need mandate relief. We need a property tax cap. One will not work without the other. Without a property tax cap, our residents and businesses will continue to suffer, which I cannot tolerate. Yet, without relief from unfunded mandates and shifted costs, vital local services could be compromised. This is the most important issue the Governor and State Legislature must resolve this session for the long-term benefit of our state’s residents.”