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Lower property tax hinges on mandate reform

Refocus the state's efforts to reform laws and benefits programs to encourage self-sufficiency. Also, consolidate state agency efforts to ensure the most efficient delivery of services.

In addition to Medicaid, counties are also required to fund at least a 40% share of the following programs: preschool special education, early intervention programs, child protective services, youth detention facilities, food stamps, indigent legal defense services, and probation. Also, temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) is required to be 25% funded at the county level. Changing these mandates would lower local property taxes substantially.

Stop cost shifting Child Welfare programs. According to the New York Association of Counties, it costs counties about $60 million a year to pay for its "local" share of child welfare.

Pass legislation that would require any state mandate imposed on a locality or a school district and costs more than $10,000 annually (or $1 million statewide) to be funded by the state.

I hope the team arrives at several creative ways to reduce mandates on localities. They are scheduled to submit a first set of recommendations by March 1 for this budget year and will continue review until the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year. The team, all who hail from various backgrounds and interests, should be able to pinpoint some of the more costly state mandates. After their report is reviewed by the Legislature, it is up to the Democratic majority leader in the Assembly to see that their recommendations are brought to the floor for a vote and implemented. Let's hope the Majority uses their efforts to save taxpayers money and makes this as a good first step toward reforming the state budget. There are only so many cost-savings measures localities can put in place when a large portion of its budget is comprised of state mandates.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

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