Ball: We have to work together, regardless of party affiliation, to come up with solutions.
CARMEL, NY (02/03/2011) – Senator Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson) hosted a bi-partisan summit today to develop common solutions for local problems, such as MS4, mandate relief, government consolidation, and resource sharing. The summit included presentations from Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge, Vincent Tamangna, Chairman of the Putnam County Legislature, and Carmel Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt.
“We all have the same issues, and the solutions are in your heads,” Ball told the audience of Supervisors, Councilmen, Legislators, and other local officials. “The men and women in this room have so much knowledge at the local level to work from, and today is an opportunity to get something done in Albany. Let’s use this opportunity, as stewards of your local municipalities, to make changes that need to be made.”
Putnam County Executive Paul Eldridge offered a presentation on unfunded state mandates, and reviewed the 9 largest mandates, which “gobble up 90% of the real property tax dollars on average that counties raise,” but also pointed out inefficiencies and duplications within the county, such as the 120 taxing entities operating within the county.
“We are only limited by our creativity,” Eldridge said. “There’s a lot we can do if we put our heads together. When you have out of control mandates gobbling up every tax dollar, you have a very serious problem that needs to be addressed, and it is essential that we take this opportunity to provide a specific list to the Senator, that we go with him to meet the leaders at the state level, and we get this message across.”
“If McDonalds operated the way government operates, there would not be a Dollar Menu. It would be a ten dollar menu,” said Deputy Putnam County Executive John Tully, illustrating the extra operating expenses that government creates for itself through duplicative services.
As one example of a local opportunity, Senator Ball announced that he plans to introduce legislation to reform SEQRA to allow smart development in the region while maintaining the necessary environmental safeguards. The legislation was developed earlier in the week, when Senator Ball and Majority Leader Dean Skelos hosted a summit in Albany of Hudson Valley business leaders.
Patterson Town Supervisor Mike Griffin agreed with Ball’s proposal.
“SEQRA used to be a tool, and now it is a weapon,” Griffin said. “There has to be reform in that regard.”
Mount Kisco Mayor J. Michael Cindrich raised the problem of hidden unfunded mandates on local governments because the state fails to act in a timely manner. For example, when the state fails to determine the status of a permanently disabled police officer, that officer remains on the local payroll.
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas spoke about the extra expense on the towns dictated by the State Police, which no longer sends troopers to court to prosecute traffic citations.
“It costs me two dollars for every one dollar I bring in,” Lucas said.
Following a presentation on MS4 by Supervisor Schmitt, the group engaged in a lengthy discussion on possible solutions for what Senator Ball labeled “the mother of all unfunded mandates,” a $500 Million EPA mandate on the towns and counties within the 40th Senate District to clean phosphorous from the New York City water supply.
“MS4 is a complicated, 8,000 pound gorilla in the room,” said Supervisor Schmitt. “If we don’t get on top of this, it will cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money that we cannot afford.”
“Putnam, Westchester, and Dutchess must galvanize as one common voice,” said Chairman Tamagna, emphasizing the need for the towns and counties east of the Hudson to negotiate as one, just as the towns and counties west of the Hudson did when they negotiated for New York City to pay for its stormwater upgrades.
“We need to come together as a state and a region to bring federal representatives to the table for a substantive push,” Griffin said. “MS4 has a huge impact to Putnam and Westchester. We are going to be obligated to do a huge program for Chesapeake Bay, which will cost between 3 and 6 billion dollars. If you look at the statewide EPA mandates, the dollars are staggering.”
Throughout the summit, Senator Ball’s chief-of-staff, Jim Coleman, recorded deliverables on a flip chart, which will be shaped into legislation.
Senator Ball has promised to call two more summits to be hosted by Dutchess and Westchester Counties. Additionally, he has invited the local elected officials to Albany to meet with Senate and Assembly leaders, as well as Governor Cuomo, to advocate for solutions to these local issues.