O'Mara says Cuomo budget plan targets key mandate relief priority, but doesn't go far enough

Thomas F. O'Mara

January 17, 2012

Albany, N.Y., January 17—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) today welcomed  Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2012-2013 state budget for proposing additional steps toward eliminating the local share of Medicaid costs.  But O’Mara plans to keep pushing for this year’s final budget to do even more to eliminate the local costs associated with the state’s $53-billion-plus Medicaid program.

“This state government is committed to long-term fiscal responsibility, tax relief and economic growth.  One by one by one we’re checking off the achievements to prove it and to make it work,” said O’Mara.  “Beginning a state takeover of local Medicaid costs would mark a true turnaround in the state-local partnership and a true victory for local property taxpayers.  It would keep building a new system of Medicaid that’s going to be more cost effective for taxpayers, less abused and wasteful, and more efficient for patients.  It took decades for this system to spiral out of control and it’s going to take some time to fix it, but we’re going to fix it.  The governor’s proposal moves in the right direction on this front, but I think we can be a little bolder and do even more this year. ”

One centerpiece of Cuomo’s $132.5-billion budget plan, which the governor unveiled in Albany earlier today, is a proposal for a three-year state takeover of future local Medicaid growth increases.  The proposal mirrors legislation O’Mara introduced last year (S.5787) with local Assemblymen Phil Palmesano (R-C-I, Corning) and Chris Friend (R-Big Flats), although the area lawmakers’ proposal would immediately take over local Medicaid cost increases as opposed to Cuomo’s three-year phase-in.  Late last year O’Mara also joined a bipartisan coalition of state legislators that introduced legislation (S.5889) to begin an eight-year phase-in of a complete state takeover of all local Medicaid costs, a move that would save county taxpayers approximately $180 million this year.

O’Mara and other state legislators have argued that it’s unrealistic for the state to keep requiring local governments to find a way to handle Medicaid growth – and other unfunded state mandates -- in the face of the 2-percent property tax cap the state imposed as part of last year’s state budget.

Overall, O’Mara praised the governor’s proposal for continuing to exert long-term control over future state spending and for meeting the state’s current fiscal obligations and challenges, including closing a $3.5-billion budget deficit without, according to the governor’s office, resorting to new state borrowing or any new or higher state taxes or fees.  For the second straight year, the governor’s calling for a year-to-year total spending decrease and for an ongoing realignment and revamping of many state programs and services.

“The core proposals underpinning this fiscal strategy remain true to last year’s building blocks for getting state and local taxpayers out from under America’s highest tax burden, creating more cost-effective government across the board, and encouraging sustained private-sector job growth,” O’Mara said.  “So we’re staying on the right track, but I’d like to see us move even faster on Medicaid and other key priorities.”

O’Mara said that the next step is for state legislators, local leaders, and the public to begin analyzing the details of the Cuomo plan and assessing its impact on specific programs and services.  The Legislature’s fiscal committees will also begin a series of public hearings on the plan next week.


Watch Senator O'Mara's reaction following the governor's budget presentation earlier today.



For more detailed information on Governor Cuomo's 2012-2013 proposed state budget, visit the state Division of the Budget.