PRESS RELEASE] Mandate Relief Council holds first Hudson Valley hearing

CASTELLI ATTENDS PUBLIC HEARING OF

MANDATE RELIEF COUNCIL

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L-R: On February 27th, 2012, at SUNY New Paltz, Assemblymembers Steve Katz, Robert J. Castelli and Sandra Galef co-host a public hearing with Governor Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council, charged with providing regulatory flexibility and relief from unfunded State mandates for local governments and school districts.

 

Assemblyman Robert J. Castelli (R, C –GoldensBridge) this week joined the Governor’s Mandate Relief Council at a public hearing at SUNY New Paltz. The newly-formed Executive and Legislative council is charged with reviewing and advancing proposals to reduce the statutory and regulatory burden on school districts.

 

“We in the State government have created the unfunded mandates that are breaking the backs of our Counties and localities,” Castelli said. “If we are to give them the relief we promised, it must combine short and long term mandate relief.  This relief can come in many forms.”

 

Governor Cuomo signed the law creating the Mandate Relief Council as part of a mandate relief package supported by Castelli in 2011, expected to save local governments and school districts more than $125 million this year.

 

Castelli noted during the hearing that some of the most troublesome mandates that plague our counties and localities are Medicaid costs. “Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, myself and several other legislators have put forth a bill to phase back in all Medicaid costs to the State over the next five years, Assembly Bill A8644,” he said.

 

“While we applaud the Governor’s decision to absorb the growth of increase in Medicaid costs that is traditionally levied on the counties, we believe we should go further by enacting this legislation, Medicaid might best be monitored under a central authority, rather than each county, so as to achieve economies of scale and scope,” Castelli said.

 

According to the Council, The State depends on its local governments and school districts to deliver essential services to its residents and often prescribes how these services should be provided. These requirements are woven throughout State laws and regulations – limiting flexibility and increasing costs. The Council was created to find, review, and reform these mandates.

 

To accomplish its charge, the Council is to review specific mandates identified by members of the Council, local governments, or school districts. After considering public comment on each mandate, the Council determines whether it is being imposed in an “unsound, unduly burdensome or costly manner so as to necessitate that it be eliminated or reformed.”

 

If the Council makes such a determination, it may:

 

  • refer a local government to the appropriate state agency to petition for regulatory flexibility;
  • upon a two-thirds vote, refer a regulation to be repealed or modified; or
  • upon a vote of seven members, refer a statute to be repealed or modified.

 

Castelli said that as the state looks to reevaluate the unfunded mandates which continue to cripple our state, it is important for the state to consider the fiscal impacts of certain policies. In the East of Hudson Watershed area, which encompasses northernWestchester, all of Putnam, and party ofDutchessCounty, the MS-4 mandate will require the expenditure by the jurisdictions in the area of $500 million in the near future.

 

“The DEC has placed a massive burden with little if any consideration to the county and local municipalities’ ability to pay for the mandated retrofitting to reduce phosphates in the Croton Watershed,” Castelli said. “We recommend that the Council submit language that mirrors Assembly Bill A5152, cosponsored by Assemblyman Steve Katz and myself, to address this issue. This bill will force the DEC to consider a town’s ability to afford the mandated retrofits, before issuing a permit. Furthermore, it will ensure the measures taken are effective and affordable through an evaluation process. Blindly spending millions of taxpayer dollars without firmly knowing the results is an insult to residents of this state.”

 

Castelli noted that he has long advocated for the full repeal of theMTApayroll tax. “The taxpayers of the twelve counties in the Hudson Valley, New York City andLong Island, who pay this onerous tax, should not be responsible for paying for the mismanagement of that agency,” he said.

 

“I applaud the Governor and the recent law which eliminated theMTApayroll tax for individuals with payrolls under $1.25 million, and reduced it substantially for businesses with payrolls under $1.75 million,” Castelli said. “More needs to be done. I believe the total repeal in the correct action, and a complete forensic audit of theMTAis necessary, to ensure it is being properly managed, and its funds properly allocated.”

 

The Governor’s 2012 Executive Budget contains a mandate relief package that will provide billions of dollars in savings to local governments and school districts, he says. It includes:

 

  • Medicaid Relief – The State would take over the growth in local Medicaid costs as well as local administrative responsibilities. This will save counties andNew York City$1.2 billion over five years.
  • Pension Reform – A new pension tier would be created for new State and local government employees. This will save State taxpayers and local governments outsideNew York City$83 billion, and will saveNew York City$30 billion over the next 30 years.
  • Early Intervention and Preschool Education Reforms – A series of reforms to these vital programs would reduce costs, lessen administrative burdens, and rationalize the financing system. These will save nearly $250 million over five years.

 

“Beyond this, continued reform of the Wicks Law, and other short and long term mandate relief must be considered, if we expect our municipalities to survive the tax cap which we imposed upon them in the past year,” Castelli said.  “I applaud Governor Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Duffy and the Council’s efforts to work for meaningful mandate relief, support their efforts in this area, and thank them for their service.”

 

In addition, local governments and school districts may now appeal to the Council to review a state agency determination on the local government’s or school district’s petition for regulatory flexibility. The Council may affirm, reject, or modify the agency’s determination. To find out more about the Council, visit http://www.governor.ny.gov/mandatereliefcouncil. To learn more about mandate relief proposals, visit www.nygetinvolved.com and sign-up for email updates.

 

Bazzo 02/29/12

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