Unfunded Mandates & Property Tax Relief

Increasing property taxes to fund mandated state programs must end if our communities are going to have any chance at a sustained economic turnaround. It’s difficult enough for communities to afford their own projects, programs and services, let alone unfunded state mandates like Medicaid (see more on the Medicaid challenge below).

That’s why I continue to co-sponsor legislation in the Senate to end the practice of unfunded state mandates on local governments and school districts. Specifically this legislation would ban the imposition of any future unfunded state mandates on local governments and school districts that are not accompanied by state funding to localities to pay for delivering the required programs and services.

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Senator O’Mara has been outspoken in his criticisms of New York State leaders for not doing enough to relieve local governments and school districts from the burden of unfunded state mandates.

It’s a commonsense, straightforward message: if the state mandates a local program or service, the state must pay for it. No more passing the buck to counties, cities, school districts, towns or villages.

The state enacted the local property tax cap in 2011 with a promise to localities and school districts to roll back the heavy burden of unfunded state mandates.  The property tax cap has been successful and provided local taxpayers with a combined, four-year savings of $15.3 billion.  I strongly support making the cap permanent.  Add to this the fact that the state’s self-imposed spending cap — which should also be made a permanent fixture of New York State’s fiscal practices — has produced an additional $31 billion in taxpayer savings, and we’re making progress.

But New York State has not lived up to Governor Cuomo’s original promise to lift the existing burden on local governments and local property taxpayers — and that must happen in order for the tax cap to achieve its No. 1 goal, which is to ensure a future of property tax cuts, not just a slower rate of growth.

So we should immediately put an end to any future unfunded state mandates.

Furthermore this legislation would mark, if enacted, a real beginning to the true transformation of the state-local partnership that’s needed. The state has taken some important mandate relief actions over the past several years, including long-term pension reform and a phased-in takeover of the growth in local Medicaid costs. But it hasn’t been enough. Mandate relief has to be a top state priority. Localities and school districts facing tough fiscal challenges still have their hands tied by too many unfunded state mandates.

We have recently taken an important mandate relief action that, if enacted into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, will relieve counties of an unfunded mandate which the New York State Association of Counties has identified as a top priority: indigent criminal defense costs.  Governor Cuomo must sign this legislation.

At a Capitol news conference, Senator O'Mara calls for Assembly approval of the "Paint Stewardship Program."“At a Capitol news conference, Senator O’Mara calls for Assembly approval of the “Paint Stewardship Program.”

I also continue to sponsor and push for the approval of commonsense mandate relief legislation to relieve counties of the burden of disposing of unused paint.  My legislation would establish an industry-sponsored “Paint Stewardship Program” to ensure the proper recycling and reuse of unused paint.  It makes great economic and environmental sense.