Hudson Valley News
7:03 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

NYS Senator Proposes Unfunded Mandate Relief For Counties

A New York state senator from the Hudson Valley is introducing legislation to bring unfunded mandate relief to counties.

Democratic state Senator Terry Gipson is sponsoring two bills he says will help bring mandate relief during this era of a 2-percent-mandated property tax cap.

“We want our local tax dollars to be used for local issues, not to pay for mandated services that New York State has said we have to pay for. Granted, many of these services are very worthwhile, provide real needs, cover the cost of real issues that affect families, but it’s not fair to continue to expect our local governments to pay for them without some type of  support from New York State,” says Gipson.

One of the new pieces of legislation is the County Payment Relief Act, or CPR.

“And the idea here would be to work the other end of the mandate issue which is to provide our local counties with the financial aid that they need to cover the cost of these mandates. So for every dollar that we can give our counties to pay for the cost of unfunded mandates, that’s one dollar they have to put towards tax relief in their community,” Gipson says. “So this is a direct and very effective way to lower property taxes throughout New York State and especially Dutchess and Putnam County.”

He says each county, excluding New York City, would receive $20 per resident. Another part of his mandate relief package is a bill that would create a grant pool of $400 million, and counties outside New York City would be eligible to apply for grants to help pay for their state-mandated Early Intervention Programs.

“And in the case of Dutchess County, just as an example, if you combine the early intervention funding with the CPR funding, you could be looking at as much as $15 million in savings that would be brought back to the county on a yearly basis,” says Gipson.

Fishkill Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor says the new bills seem like good ideas.  “That does make some sense – force the state to proportionately fund the mandates. I do like the concept.”

While Gipson’s bill on the grant pool is new, Westchester Democrat Amy Paulin sponsored an Assembly version in April. The CPR bill, however, is only in the Senate. Lalor says he will pore over the details before deciding to sponsor it in his chamber.

“You know as well as I do I like working with Senator Gipson. I think we’re a good team on some of these reform issues,” says Lalor.

In fact, Lalor and Gipson teamed up earlier this year on a bill to amend the state constitution to prohibit New York from imposing new unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts. Lalor talks about this and Gipson’s latest bills.

“Senator Gipson and I worked on sort of the macro solution the constitutional amendment no more unfunded mandates and fund the mandates that you have done. But I think it is very wise to attack it on the macro level, as we’ve done, but also on the sort of specific micro level issue by issue, and that seems to be what he’s doing, says Lalor.”

Gipson, who represents most of Dutchess and a few towns in Putnam, calls his legislation financial aid for local governments. He says state government should follow the example of family budgeting.

“We don’t go and ask our neighbors, our people across the street, to help us pay for things that we want to buy, but New York State has a history of doing that. They come up with great ideas that they can’t afford to pay for so they find someone else to pay for them, and they’ve done so by asking our local governments to do it, says Gipson. “It’s not fair, it’s driving people out of New York State, it’s irresponsible behavior, and this is a way to change it.”

As for the proposed constitutional amendment banning new unfunded mandates, Gipson says he has received resolutions of support from 10 towns and villages in both Putnam and Dutchess Counties, as well as from Dutchess County itself.

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