When the New York state's property tax cap law was established in 2011, there was considerable push-back from local government leaders who spoke about the tremendous burden that state mandated costs placed on their budgets.
At the time, according to an analysis by the New York State Association of Counties, state mandates accounted for 88 percent of the statewide combined county government tax levy.
But when the tax cap bill was passed and signed into law, legislators and the governor's office vowed that meaningful mandate relief would be a top priority going forward. A few measures have been adopted, mainly items that slowed the growth of some mandates rather than actually cut them back.
The overall results, though, are woefully inadequate. NYSCAC reports that the nine biggest unfunded state mandates have grown 7 percent since 2011, and now that the state has capped local property tax levies, these mandates account for 99 percent of the total county property tax burden.
It's a big problem for county governments, and there's no reasonable way for a state official to argue otherwise.
But that seems to be exactly what Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing.
Among the more than 35 official proposals the governor outlined in his State of the State speech tour last week, none addressed state unfunded mandate relief in any meaningful way.
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In fact, the only measure that directly addressed local property taxes in a meaningful way would actually create a new, albeit relatively small, unfunded mandate from the state. Cuomo is proposing a plan that would require county governments to draft local government consolidation plans and force public votes on implementing them in the general election. Such plans would involve considerable outreach and coordination with town and city-level governments, not to mention public hearings and efforts to educate the public about what's going on. In other words, it would cost money, taxpayer money, all thanks to New York state.
This proposal comes just a couple of weeks after the governor's New Year's Eve veto of a major mandate relief bill involving indigent defense costs shouldered by counties.
But there's a solution to the governor's lack of interest in addressing this major contributor to property taxes. It's called the Legislature.
It's vital that in 2017, state legislators stand up for counties, school districts, towns, village and cities. They can start by rejecting this gimmick being pushed by the governor. And they can finish by finally delivering meaningful mandate relief.