Insisting Tax Cap Is Working, Cuomo Says Mandate Relief Already In Place
The idea that local governments need more mandate relief?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched into a lengthy defense of the cap on local property tax increases at his cabinet meeting this afternoon, telling reporters and officials there that relief from burdensome required spending is already in place.
Cuomo also indicated that governments at all levels should begin considering more aggressive consolidation approaches.
He ticked off a number of short and medium-term mandate relief measures, including the partial assumption of Medicaid costs over the next five years.
“The state has reduced state mandates and the state gave you even more Medicaid relief with the state picking up even more of the Medicaid costs,” the governor said. “So it’s just not true.”
And he insisted that it’s up to local governments to start living within their means or override the cap themselves.
“That’s called life. That’s called the constraints you are in as a government official today. You have to balance the budget,” Cuomo said. “You can’t go to the taxpayers and ask for a 2 percent.”
The measure, a signature economic achievement from the governor’s rookie year in office, caps property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation. There are exemptions for tax base and pension growth.
County governments are in the middle of piecing together their 2013 budgets, the second year that they have had to work within the cap. A local governing board can override the cap with a more than 60 percent majority.
He lectured that local elected officials need to make their budgets work, even with an eroding tax base that’s been a reality for generations now in parts of upstate.
“This was a lot of money so we did the mandate relief,” he said. “Well, we want more mandate relief. I think it becomes an attempt to avoid the obvious. At some point the numbers have to balance. You can only spend that which you take in. That’s life.”
Cuomo, who made the cap a centerpiece of his 2010 run for governor, said local governments should strongly consider consolidation measures which he championed while attorney general.
The governor said he was amazed those consolidation recommendations weren’t taken more seriously by the 10,500 local governing units in New York.
“This conversation on consolidation is a conversation we should have on a much more dramatic fashion because I believe if people understood consolidation there would be much more of an appetite to do it,” Cuomo said.
It almost seems to give the indication that the cap was a way to encourage more consolidation on the local level and eliminate various layers of government.
To that theory, Cuomo said, “I think these are the economic realities.”
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