As we have consistently advocated on this Blog, New York state must take over the local share of Medicaid and rid county governments across the state of this massive unfunded mandate. Indeed, we are not alone; in the January 9 edition of The Journal News (“Cuomo’s vision for N.Y. pricey, local leaders say”), Gerald McKinstry highlighted the bleak future in The Journal News’ readership’s counties struggling with the costs of mandates—costs only expected to rise in 2012. The nine largest mandates make up 90 percent of the $4.4 billion dollars collected in property taxes in 57 of New York’s counties. In 2012, this number will increase to more than $11 billion dollars in local taxes to be used to fund state-mandated programs. To put these costs into perspective, McKinstry provided sobering statistics in two counties: in Westchester County alone, 75 cents out of every dollar collected pays for programs that the state requires it to provide: Medicaid, pensions, prekindergarten, early childhood prevention and probation. In Rockland County, the local share for Medicaid consumes its entire approximately $63 million property tax levy. These counties are not alone. The same story can be heard from most New York counties across the state. A list of state programs funded by county property taxes can be found in a recent report issued by the New York State Association of Counties, a copy of which can be found here.
It appears as if the calls for relief, and the sobering statistics supporting those calls are having an effect. An encouraging proposal was revealed this week in the governor’s 2012-13 Executive Budget and Reform Plan. While not calling for the state to pick up the entire local share of Medicaid, the governor’s budget included the creation of a plan for the state to take over 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid growth that will be phased in over three years. It is anticipated that this proposed takeover will save local governments $1.2 billion dollars over the next five years. With the first week of the 2012 state legislative session having come to a close, New Yorkers expecting to see change in 2012 can only hope that mandate relief is, and remains, a priority this legislative session.