Unfunded Mandates
Unfunded Mandates
Who Should Pay the Budget Bill? State versus Local Taxpayers.

Local home rule versus State authority.

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27 States regulate unfunded mandates, 11 through statute, 12 through the constitution, and 4 through both.  New York State does not clearly and unequivocally regulate unfunded mandates through the constittuion or statute.

 

However, one interpretation is that Article IX, Section 2, Sub-section b, of the New York State Constitution limits the authority of state government to impact the "property, affairs or government of any local government" with the exception of home rule messages (requests from localities for special legislation).  This provision, arguably constitutional, limits the ability of the state legislature to enact legislation that directly impacts local governments, especially in the case of enacting policies and programs that localities will bear the responsibility of financing.  Does, in fact, the State Constitution allow for the promulgation of unfunded state mandates onto localities?

 

In 2010, nine unfunded state mandates consumed $4 billion, or 90 percent, of all county property tax receipts.  According to the Tax Foundation, New York State has the sixth worst property tax burden in the nation and contains the 16 highest counties when property taxes were measured as a percentage of home value. These killer property taxes can be attributed to the costly, budget-busting unfunded mandates handed down from the state to municipalities and school districts. Enacting a moratorium on unfunded mandates will provide vital relief to families and businesses.

Whenever Albany tells local governments to do something – start a program, provide a service, meet a perceived need – and doesn’t provide any funding, that constitutes an “unfunded mandate.”

The increased costs caused by unfunded mandates are absorbed by local governments and school districts and lead to increased local property taxes for homeowners. The State Legislature needs to enact a permanent moratorium on certain unfunded state mandates imposed on local governments and school districts. In addition, the legislature should require fiscal notes on bills stating the estimated annual costs to affected communities, along with creating an “Unfunded Mandate Reform Plan” to identify unfunded mandates that need to be repealed.

Taking a comprehensive approach to banning unfunded mandates would help stop Albany’s continued cost shift where the buck is continually passed onto the backs of local governments, school districts and taxpayers.

NEWS BEHIND THE CONSTITUTION
New York Times
Winnie Hu
Thursday, April 14, 2011
"By their count, these officials say, they are forced to abide by more than 250 unfunded state mandates a year, many of which can no longer be sustained.  School officials have been complaining about these imposed costs for years, but their...
This 2011 news article reported in the New York Times illustrates the extent to which local school districts must endure unfunded state mandates -- 250 on an annual basis, according to the article -- and how complying with these myriad unfunded state mandates consumes a great deal of time, money and effort on the part of local school districts who are already facing reductions in state aid to education.
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OPINION EDITORIALS ON THE CONSTITUTION
New York Post
Chris Collins
Monday, May 9, 2011
"The state's mandates on local governments are far too numerous to detail here. Let's start with the mother of all mandates -- Medicaid.  Nearly every dime Erie County collects in non-school-tax property taxes goes directly to the state...
In this 2011 opinion piece for the New York Post, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins advocates for Albany to rein in unfunded mandates such as Medicaid that are absorbing a majority of Counties' property tax levies, in addition to addressing runaway public sector pension costs and expenses imposed on local school districts via the state's Taylor Law. 
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New York Post
Steve Levy
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
"Local governments are crushed under the weight of state mandates and regulations. While I have frozen Suffolk County general-fund taxes for seven straight years, it has become increasingly challenging to control other costs so that we can absorb...
This 2011 New York Post opinion piece from former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy underscores the urgent need for Albany to take proactive steps in addressing the crushing financial burden that unfunded mandates impose on local governments and urges future boldness from, the State Mandate Relief Redesign Team when tackling the issue of unfunded state mandates.
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SOLUTIONS
A selection of relevant solutions from other states.

As noted in Governor Andrew Cuomo's "2011 Mandate Relief Redesign Team Preliminary Report," (citing the work of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, 'Reforming the Process for Identifying and Funding Section 29 Mandates on Local Governments”) at present, 27 states have some form of a constitutional or statutory restraint on the issuance of unfunded mandates on local governments.

Source: Cuomo Administration, "2011 Mandate Relief Redesign Team Preliminary Report," http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/finalmandate.pdf.

Source: Citizens Research Council of Michigan, “Reforming the Process for Identifying and Funding, Section 29 Mandates on Local Governments,” Report 355 (July 2009), at 15, http://council.legislature.mi.gov/files/lcsm/rpt355.pdf.

 

 

 

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