January is always a time for new ideas and a fresh approach. Since the New Year began, I've had the opportunity to talk with many, many residents. "Disheartened" may be the best word to describe the tone of these conversations. While no one seems to have any specific answers, all agree that the unsustainable practices forced down upon us by New York State have got to change.
To that end, I will be introducing three resolutions to the legislature in February.
First: I was glad to hear Governor Cuomo's intention to form a committee to examine Medicaid. Medicaid accounts for one half of our property tax load. New York offers every possible benefit allowed by law. We can no longer afford to do this. My resolution calls for the statewide commission to include membership from upstate counties. We need a seat at the table if we are expected to pick up the bill. We need to be at the table to insist that the current scope of Medicaid services are unsustainable and if left unchanged, will bankrupt our communities.
Second: Pensions. Government employees are entitled to some of the richest pension plans in the country. Unlike most private companies that offer 401K plans which individuals pay into, most government workers pay nothing towards their pensions. Within 3 years, 24% of all property taxes will go toward this obligation. Again, it is unsustainable. My resolution asks that the law be changed so that all government employees will begin to contribute something to their own pensions.
Third: Currently, county employees are eligible for full health benefits after retiring from the county after only 5 years of work. I am asking that this be negotiated and changed during our next collective bargaining session to better reflect pension plans in the private sector.
These three changes could cut the property taxes in Onondaga County in half. They are not new ideas, but they are sound fiscal alternatives. For individuals, the sacrifices would be small. On a cumulative level, the savings to the taxpayers would be huge.
Kathleen Rapp represents the 5th District in Onondaga County, which covers parts of the town of Cicero, the town of Salina and the town of Dewitt. Rapp can be reached at 451-5294 or firstname.lastname@example.org.