State budget director Robert Megna defended the Cuomo administration’s efforts to limit unfunded mandates on local governments, saying they have capped Medicaid costs and reformed the pension system.
During a two-hour panel discussion today, local government officials said the state’s efforts have been helpful, but more is needed.
“What we are seeing right now is governing by triage,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director for the state Association of Counties.
Acquario said that the state’s property-tax cap next year will limit counties to $114 million in new revenue. Their expenses are set to grow by $244 million, he said.
Megna said Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year agreed to have the state cap counties’ Medicaid costs at 3 percent a year; Medicaid is the largest state mandate of county budgets. The state also implemented a new pension tier, Tier VI, that is estimated to save the state more than $80 billion over the next 30 years.
“We believe significant mandate relief, in taking over those costs, will over time provide a substantial local benefit,” Megna said.
Timothy Kremer, executive director of the state School Boards Association, said the state needs to reform the Triborough Amendment, the oft-critized law that allows union contracts to continue even after they expire.
He added that New York has more than 200 mandates on services for students in special-education programs.
Sen. Betty Little, R-Glen Falls, who was on the panel today, said a mandate relief panel formed by the Cuomo administration will hopefully find more ways to curb unfunded mandates.
“We have the tax cap, and the tax cap is bringing mandate relief to the fore,” she said.