Counties Call on Albany to Defend Local Taxpayers from State Cost Shifts
March 28, 2017
Property taxpayers will shoulder hundreds of millions of dollars in new mandates if state budget proposals pass, with limited state reimbursement at a later date.
The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) today called on members of the State Senate to defend property taxpayers from the cost shifts and new state mandates being proposed as part of the 2017-18 State Budget.
The state budget being negotiated this week includes three provisions that will shift more than $155 million in new costs when fully implemented to local taxpayers, including funding cuts to foster care programs, public health, and reprogramming federal social services funds in order to fill holes in the State Budget. The budget also includes two new state mandates that will require counties and county taxpayers to fund, upfront, hundreds of millions of dollars in new indigent defense costs and services to support raising the age of criminal responsibility. Much of this will be reimbursed, but at a later date -- which will require counties to make tough choices about exceeding the property tax cap in 2018 until state funds arrive.
"With the recent talk of cost shifts from Washington to New York State, you would think State Lawmakers and the Governor would be more sensitive to passing the buck to county property taxpayers. Unfortunately, they don't seem to care as much when they are the ones doing the shifting," said NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer. "Who is going to defend property taxpayers from these new costs coming down from Albany?"
This week's budget negotiations come on the heels of two troubling statewide reports on population loss in New York State and a lack of new jobs Upstate. Rather than finding meaningful solutions to the high costs of living and running a business in NY, state lawmakers may be adding new burdens to homeowners and businesses by expanding mandates and shifting new costs to county governments.
Cost Shifts to Counties
The Governor's proposed state budget proposals recommend consolidating 39 public health appropriations into four pools. Funding for each pool is then reduced by 20 percent. While the Assembly and Senate one house budgets rejected the Governor's proposal, that is one of the items being negotiated this week as all three sides discuss final budget language this week. The total cost of this cost shift from the state to counties and New York City will be $47 million when fully implemented. Another proposal in the Governor's budget shifts nearly $20 million in foster care costs to counties and $62 million to New York City.
New and Expanded State Mandates
The Legislature and Governor are also negotiating the terms of expanding indigent legal defense services, a state obligation that was shifted to counties in the 1960s. Public defense services cost local taxpayers $380 million each year, and the expansions being discussed in Albany this week will add hundreds of millions of local tax dollars to this program over the next three years.
As proposed, raising the age of criminal responsibility will require county taxpayers to fund upfront costs of expanding programs, services, and courthouses to accommodate the state's new policies. While the state proposals may provide for future reimbursement, most of the initial costs of raising the age will come from property taxpayers.
Who Pays for It? Local Property Taxpayers.
"This is classic New York State government, where they have a really good public policy proposal that they don't want to commit to funding, so they are making property taxpayers pay for it. Who in Albany is standing up for local property taxpayers?" asked NYSAC President William E. Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer. "The State gives us these new responsibilities, and these new costs. Where do they think the money is going to come from?"
"They keep passing the buck, but they aren't passing the bucks. If these funding cuts stay in the budget, they have nobody to blame for high property taxes but themselves. The very programs that are targeted for cuts, are in fact ones that are necessary if the state raises the age of criminal responsiblity," said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of NYSAC.
More on the county impact of state budget actions.
The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC's mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. For more information, visit www.nysac.org