NYSAC members focus on budget
Now that Governor Cuomo's budget proposal is up for debate in the legislature, county governments anxiously wait to see what type of relief they'll get - if any - from the crush of state mandates. Our Solomon Syed met with leaders at the New York State Association of Counties annual conference, who say they're forced to do more with less.
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COLONIE, N.Y. -- As county leaders gathered at NYSAC's annual legislative conference, mandate relief dominated conversation at the Desmond Hotel.
"The pension: our pension costs are just skyrocketing, and that's one of my main issues," said Debbie Preston, (R) Broome County Executive.
"Some people have mentioned it, calling it ‘the beast,’ that consumes all available resources," said Stephen Acquario, NYSAC Executive Director.
Governor Cuomo's budget tries to tame it with a ‘pension smoothing’ plan that would save money up front, but cost big down the road. The state-wide Medicaid cap remains in place, but counties must still contribute more than $8.5 billion to the general fund.
"New York State requires counties to pay more for Medicaid than any other state," said Martha Robertson, (D) Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman.
"What we give up is economic development opportunities locally," said Gregory Edwards, (R) Chautauqua County Executive.
But maybe not much longer: an influx of industry, namely innovation hot spots and possibly hydrofracking, which could be the fastest route to more revenue.
"I think the economic impact will be substantial," said Preston.
Even with the potential for new revenue streams like hydrofracking and tech centers, the fear is they'll just create more unfunded mandates."
"Nothing that's apparent in the regulation or the documents so far that the localities are going to have any means to deal with those issues," said Robertson.
Should companies receive tax breaks or some type of incentives to come to New York, the state's counties could be back to square one.
"The state has a lack of resources right now, the counties have a lack of resources right now," said Acquario.