O'Mara on new legislation: No more unfunded state mandates out of Albany

Thomas F. O'Mara

April 04, 2013

Albany, N.Y., April 4—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) announced today that he is co-sponsoring legislation in the Senate to end the practice of unfunded state mandates on local governments and school districts.

Specifically the legislation (S.1294/A.4861), which has bipartisan sponsorship in the Legislature and is co-sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Chris Friend (R-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning), would ban the imposition of any future state mandates on local governments and school districts that are not accompanied by state funding to localities to pay for delivering the required programs and services.

“The state enacted the local property tax cap with a promise to localities and school districts to roll back the heavy burden of unfunded state mandates.  We still have a lot of work to do to lift that existing burden on local governments and local property taxpayers,” said O’Mara.  “But we should also immediately put an end to any future unfunded state mandates.  This legislation proposes a common sense step that says the state will no longer pass the buck to counties, cities, town, villages or school districts.  If the state mandates a program or a service, the state should pay for it.”

[read more in today's Corning Leader]    

O’Mara said the legislation serves to highlight the ongoing need for New York to provide mandate relief to local governments and school districts in the face of the two-percent property tax cap the state enacted in 2011. 

It would also mark, if enacted, a true transformation of the state-local partnership.  The state has taken some important mandate relief actions over the past two years, O’Mara said, including long-term pension reform and, beginning this year, the takeover of the growth in local Medicaid costs.

But it hasn’t been enough. 

“Some meaningful steps have been taken to rein in the cost of Medicaid, for example,” said O’Mara.  “But we can’t forget that more needs to be done.  Mandate relief has to remain a state priority.  Localities and school districts facing tough fiscal challenges still have their hands tied by too many unfunded state mandates ”

O’Mara said that the legislation he’s co-sponsoring would also give the state’s Mandate Relief Council a stronger role in policing mandates by giving the council the power to conduct an expedited review of mandates that local governments believe are onerous burdens and eliminate those that add costs to local governments.