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Reforming Mandates, Reducing Costs


Executive Summary

As the administrative arm of State government, counties are in a position to partner with Governor Andrew Cuomo to transform the public service delivery process in New York State. We are on the front lines of delivering these services every day, and as such we know where the system works well, where it breaks down and how to make it more efficient and effective.

NYSAC embraces the Governor’s call to reduce the State mandates that dominate virtually every aspect of county government.

Since the creation of Medicaid in 1966 through the past five decades, these mandates have grown annually, and the costs that have been passed to county property taxpayers have increased unsustainably.

All of us who labored to compile and produce this report over the past month recognize that reversing 50 years of shifting mandated costs to county property taxpayers will take more than 90 days. However, the exercise of compiling these mandate relief ideas is critical to transforming government in a way that cuts costs and reduces the property tax burden for all homeowners and businesses.

Counties are required under State law to implement and finance numerous State mandated health and human services programs including Medicaid, public assistance for adults and families, child welfare and preschool special education, among others.

In 2010, nine State mandates consume 90 percent of the county property tax levy statewide. These mandates have been a direct cause of property tax increases over the past five decades.

This statutory relationship that connects counties and the State through these programs is what sets our mandates apart from those imposed on other local governments.
Our costliest mandates are rooted in the direct delivery of State programs, not in the labor-related mandates that impact other local governments.

In the pages that follow we describe hundreds of Mandate reform ideas that could reduce the cost of government by billions of dollars. These ideas are organized according to the nine mandates that consume 90 percent of the property tax levy statewide, beginning with the largest mandate, Medicaid. (See below)

Our top mandate relief priority is to reform Medicaid in a way that reduces costs for the State and reinvests these savings for a gradual State takeover of county Medicaid costs. Only then can we reduce property taxes and improve New York’s economic competitiveness.

The enormity of the state-imposed fiscal burden on counties is so severe we remain concerned that even if a large share of the mandate reform and cost reduction proposals in this document are implemented, we may still fall short of our mutual goal of reducing property taxes.

We are under no illusions that this task will be simple or easily accomplished. But, at the same time, we firmly believe that it must begin now and continue over the next three years to return New York State to its rightful place as a leader in government service and economic competitiveness.

It is with that sense of urgency that the New York State Association of Counties, on behalf of our members who serve the people of this great state, respectfully submit these recommendations. With them, we pledge our tireless support for this effort and stand ready and willing to work with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to make real mandate relief at long last, a reality.

Ideas categorized by the 9 mandates that consume 90 percent of the county property tax levy.


Public Assistance/Safety Net

Child Welfare
Preschool Special Education

Early Intervention

Indigent Defense


Youth Detention


Other Mandate Relief Ideas

Legislative Action Center Includes

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