The County Perspective: Mandate Relief, Shared Services, Elections, Tax Reform, more
Week of May 1, 2017
NYSAC and counties across the state are again declaring Mayday for Mandate Relief to call attention to the enormous burden of state mandates on county budgets.
This year, counties are urging state lawmakers to support legislation that will prohibit the state from enacting new or expanding existing unfunded mandates on counties and local governments.
For more information, visit https://www.nysac.org/mayday
|Counties Convening Shared Services Panels
One of the state mandates enacted this year as part of the 2017-18 State Budget is a requirement that county leaders convene a panel of mayors and supervisors on a panel to develop shared service plans. These panels have three months, until August 1st, to develop plans for shared, coordinated and efficient services among the county, cities, towns and villages. The plan MUST contain new recurring property tax savings through elimination of duplicative services; shared services; insurance purchasing cooperatives; reductions in back office overhead or better coordination of services.
In 2015, under a similar state law, counties and local governments submitted government efficiency plans designed to save over $1 billion in property tax levy savings for years 2017, 2018, and 2019 (see www.nysac.org/files/2015EfficiencyPlanReportUpdated.pdf). Those savings plans are not eligible for this year's Shared Services Plans.
NYSAC continues to advocate for mandate relief (see "Mayday for Mandate Relief" above) as the best way to reduce property taxes in New York State.
With 23 scheduled days left of the 2017 Legislative Session, the remaining weeks will be a busy time in Albany. Both the Senate and Assembly have stated their end of session priorities. The Senate Republicans are moving procurement reforms and legislation to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. The Assembly's end of session priorities include mayoral control of schools in NYC, environmental issues, and the expansion of charter schools.
During these 23 remaining Legislative days NYSAC's key priorities include:
Battling the Opioid Epidemic
On Monday, April 24, 2017 the Senate passed a package of eight bills targeting opioid and synthetic drug abuse. The measures address the evolving challenges presented by fentanyl and synthetic drugs, and also help increase coordination among health care personnel to prevent future opioid overdoses and abuse. Specifically, the legislation included:
State Assembly Considers Election Law Changes for Early Voting and Automatic Registration
Bills seeking election law changes including early voting (A2064/S2950) and automatic election registration link through the DMV are expected to start moving through the legislature in the next couple of weeks. While these proposals were rejected in the final State Budget, they are now be considered in standalone bill form in the remainder of the session. The early voting legislation would require early voting polling sites be open 7-day prior to the election date, including weekend services to allow for early voting. This bill does not include state funding to cover additional county costs to cover the increased service requirements. NYSAC will track this legislation, and urge State Lawmakers to pick up any local costs associated with election law changes. NYSAC's resolution on this matter can be found at www.nysac.org/files/IntergovernmentalResos.pdf.
County interests in crosshairs as Congress considers tax reform
Congressional Republicans have focused on comprehensive tax reform since gaining control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Now, with a Republican administration in place, tax reform has moved from a pipe dream to the front burner. For counties, tax reform could put at risk two major priorities: the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds and the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.
Tax-exempt municipal bonds have been a fundamental feature of the United States tax code since 1913 and remain the primary method used by states and local governments to fund public infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and water infrastructure. Over the past decade, state and local governments have financed $3.8 trillion dollars in infrastructure investments using municipal bonds. Any changes to their tax-exempt status — either a complete elimination or a cap on the exemption — would drive up the costs of financing critical infrastructure for both counties and taxpayers.
Also caught in the crosshairs of tax reform is the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. The SALT deduction, which was also included in the original 1913 tax code, allows taxpayers to deduct state and local taxes paid, including property and income tax, from their federal taxable income. This deduction provides counties some measure of autonomy over their tax systems and incentivizes local investment in various services, including health, education and transportation. Eliminating or capping the SALT deduction would represent double taxation on taxpayers and could greatly constrain policy options available to state and local governments.
Following the blueprint, A Better Way, set forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last summer, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has been crafting a tax reform plan over the last few months. Brady's legislation could be released as early as May, at which point the committee would hold hearings and mark-ups on the legislation. House Republicans have set an ambitious timetable for completing tax reform, hoping to pass it before the August recess this summer.
However, following the debates over health care legislation earlier this spring, President Trump and his administration are taking on a greater role in the legislative process on tax reform. The White House anticipates releasing its own tax reform blueprint this spring — likely in the form of a plan or outline as opposed to legislative text — and insists it is “driving the train” on tax reform.
Competing proposals between the House and the White House could slow the tax reform process down. Additionally, many Republican senators have publicly expressed concerns about certain components of the House plan, further complicating its path forward.
NACo, in conjunction with other state and local government organizations, recently sent a letter to all members of Congress urging them to preserve both the tax exemption for municipal bonds and the SALT deduction.
Phase 3 of the New NY Broadband Program
On Thursday, March 30th the New NY Broadband Program Office (BPO) released the Phase 3 Request for Proposal Guidelines. Round III will consist of two separate, simultaneous auction processes, which together will target all remaining unserved and underserved areas in the state:
- The majority of the locations in Round III will be addressed through the "New York Auction," which is modeled after the two previous rounds and will consist solely of state funding
- Additionally, the "New York CAF Auction," will focus on the remaining areas, which are eligible for $170 million in Connect America Funds (CAF) recently allocated to New York State by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The BPO will begin accepting applications for broadband funding on the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) portal starting on June 6, 2017. Applications must be submitted by August 15, 2017. More information can be found here: https://nysbroadband.ny.gov/new-ny-broadband-program/phase-3
Training for 21st Century Leaders
The Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany is hosting upcoming educational training opportunities for government leaders. The first: 21st Century Leader: Impact & Opportunity will be held May 2-3rd; and the second: Timeless Lessons in Creating Public Value will be held on May 4th.
The 21st Century Leader session will focus on the drastic changes in the global economy and shifting priorities of governments at all levels require a new attention to the promise of technology as a tool for creating new opportunity for citizens and greater efficiencies in the daily operation of government. This course introduces participants to the role that information and communications technologies are playing in transforming governments worldwide. Participants will learn about the ways that information strategies and management approaches affect governmental functions, democratic processes, and public programs. The course explores key concepts such as public value, digital government, e-readiness, benchmarking and institutional and organization mechanisms such as benchmarking, public private partnership, ICT policy and governance. Particular attention will be paid to the interaction of policy, management, data, and technology in the design, operation, and evaluation of government operations, citizen engagement, and public services. Register Here
The session on Timeless Lessons in Creating Public Value will provide attendees with lessons for how to innovate successfully and avoid the pitfalls many of your predecessors have fallen into in this one-day, first-hand inside look into the insights CTG has gathered over more than 23 years of research and working with government agencies as they strive to solve pressing public problems. CTG fundamentally believes that innovation is a function of creative exploration of the interdependencies among public policy, public management, information resources, and technologies. Register Here.