There is a growing chorus, on both sides of the political aisle, for reform of unfunded state and federal mandates. Expect more discussion with a gubernatorial election and races for various state offices during 2014. New York is one of a handful of states in the union to require counties to pay a portion of the costs for services required by Albany or Washington. In our state, the common level for a county share of mandates is 25 percent.
Mandates are generally used to cover costs for social and health services, along with costs for certain public safety and correctional services. Counties have virtually no say in how and to what extent mandated service are provided, and less say when the bill is handed for payment by county taxpayers.
Advocates for reform of mandates note a comprehensive reduction of mandates would position counties to make substantial reductions in property taxes. That would definitely be welcome news for taxpayers dealing with a tough economy, particularly in upstate.
There have occasionally been detractors who ask what the benefit for taxpayers would be if mandates are reduced. Would mandate reform simply be a cost-shift from county to state, with no real benefit to taxpayers?
As discussion of mandate reform again moves to the forefront with the race for governor, I believe there should be detailed discussion of the benefits for taxpayers in the event mandate reform becomes a reality. The Rensselaer County Legislature has adopted resolutions advocating for a “Reverse-Mandate”, in which any savings from a mandate reduction would be returned directly to taxpayers. If the state has the power to increase mandates, the state certainly has the power, with the help of local government, to ensure a reduction in local property taxes if mandates are reformed. Make mandate reform a reality, and make property tax reductions also a reality.