Five local Republican officials called on state leaders Monday to conduct a special session of the legislature after the November elections to eliminate unfunded state mandates.
County Executive Rob Astorino joined Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury, county Legislator Michael Smith, state Assemblyman Robert Castelli and state Sen. Greg Ball at Mount Pleasant Town Hall to decry the burdensome expenses that have been imposed on schools and local and county governments.
“I am putting together a budget and I must tell you it is a very, very difficult time in the Town of Mount Pleasant to stay within the 2 percent cap and with the mandates that we have in place,” said Maybury, who added that declining tax revenues are also posing problems.
Astorino said the efforts by the state to provide mandate relief have been inadequate.
Westchester County, for example, is paying well over $200 million this year for Medicaid and pension costs have increased by 20 percent in 2012, he said.
“This results in, unfortunately, programs being cut, people being laid off and it has a detrimental effect on the lives of people in this county and it’s nothing that we want,” Astorino said. “We’re asking Albany once again to take their foot off our throats.”
The county executive noted that the state had made promises to municipalities, school districts and counties that mandate relief would follow implementation of the cap.
“It was nice to have a bill signing for the tax cap, but the tax cap alone is making things worse,” Astorino said. “The tax cap without significant mandate relief from the state is just a scam.”
Ball said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised that “an up or down” vote would be held on a package of mandate relief efforts. There could be several hundred items in that package, he said.
“This governor, in partnership with our majority in the Senate and our colleagues in the Assembly, we have attacked some very tough issues,” Ball said. “The reason why we’re here today is to demand a special session on unfunded mandate relief as soon as we possibly can.”
“The unfunded mandates came from Albany. It was our responsibility. It’s our responsibility to make them go away,” added Castelli.
He said a special session should be scheduled only to address the mandates.
“If we do not get that mandate relief all of the towns, villages and cities who are suffering now under the 2 percent tax cap, who are just about making it now, will be in dire straits by next year,” he said.
Smith said mandate relief was promised when the tax cap was approved.
“We’re waiting for the promise,” he said. “The mandate relief is going to take some very, very hard decisions.”
Retirement benefits for school employees and the Triborough Amendment, which states that the terms for expired contracts for school employees stay in place if there is no new agreement reached, conspire to put pressures on districts.
Ball said he was hopeful there would be a special session and that Cuomo could convince Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to address the issue.
Castelli said in order to schedule a special session for mandate relief Cuomo’s leadership is needed. (ARTICLE)