Westchester Leaders Challenge Cuomo On Mandate Relief

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County Executive Rob Astorino, center, said the county will "drown" if it doesn't receive relief for unfunded mandates Thursday at Yorktown Town Hall. Photo Credit: Brian Marschhauser
Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, at the podium, said "sacred cows" like prevailing wage need to be slaughtered for local municipalities to move forward. Photo Credit: Brian Marschhauser
State Sen. Greg Ball said Gov. Andrew Cuomo can regain support from his constituents by taking on mandate relief. Photo Credit: Brian Marschhauser

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Nearly two dozen leaders across four counties gathered Thursday at Yorktown Town Hall to champion for unfunded mandate relief, a cause they say has fallen mostly on deaf ears in previous years.

Elected officials including State Sen. Greg Ball chose to “beat the drum” once more because he said he believes in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ability to listen to his constituents. Cuomo’s approval rating suffered a 15-point drop after signing a new gun control bill, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, and Ball said he can regain support by focusing on issues that benefit all taxpayers

“I happen to know the governor watches his polling very closely," Ball said. "We need this governor to get away from the social issues, get away from the issues that divide us and focus on the biggest bipartisan issue this state has ever seen. These are the bread and butter issues we elected this governor to deal with."

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said mandate relief is not a "sexy issue" but urged Cuomo to take action.

“It seems to me that most people are against waterboarding and yet we’re getting waterboarded by Albany in unfunded mandates," said Astorino, who estimated nine state mandates alone consume 85 percent of Westchester's property tax levy. "We feel like we’re drowning and we are going to drown in a real short period of time unless something in a real way is done, and soon."

Ball and Astorino were joined by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Dutchess County Comptroller Jim Coughlan, Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy, Yorktown Council Member Nick Bianco, Yorktown Council Member Terrence Murphy, Town of Cortlandt Comptroller Glenn Cestaro and Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, who offered a local perspective on the difficulties unfunded mandates present.

Grace said Yorktown is especially hurt by prevailing wage laws, which he said drive up the price of construction jobs and other outside contracts. He estimated a new firehouse would have cost between $600,000 and $700,000 if it was done by a local company, but prevailing wage laws doubled the price.

"So you know what happened? The firehouse isn’t being built, the guys that would have built the firehouse aren’t being employed, the town suffers because we don’t get the services and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s nuts," Grace said. "It’s time to stop pussyfooting around about this stuff and be bold, put everything on the table and start moving this state ahead because you’re killing us."

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Truth:

Is it the prevailing wage rate that brought an occasional picket at Mohegan Lake Motors while they build a new showroom down the road with a local contractor? I'd rather see a responsible local company then a company that might be equally responsible but costlier because they are union. Lord knows those unions need the dues to pay the officials & contribute to politicians.

Soren Kirkus:

Stop Code Talking!

These "un-funded mandates" are all schemes to line the pockets and fill the pension coffers of the public unions at the expense of the taxpayer.

No politician will say they are "pro unfunded mandates" but neither do any have the balls to stand up to the unions and do what is best for their constituency, either.

J B:

If you would like to research a specific mandate that school districts are working to repeal look up the Triboro Amendment. Here is a link to one site that is not in support of it.
http://stopthetaxshift.org/employee-relations/25-triborough-amendment

The Race to the Top initiative also resulted in state unfunded mandates that are costing school districts millions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_top

These are just two of the hundreds of mandates local governments are working to repeal.

livefree:

Unfunded mandates are state/national government-imposed regulations that require actions by state or local governments or public schools, without providing funds to pay for their completion.

Some of the most taxing are: salary increases and pension contributions for public employees and the ever-increasing cost of health insurance for public workers.

Bob Loblaw:

No one supports an "unfunded mandate." I defy you to find me a politician that will say "I support unfunded mandates." We need to do a lot more talking about the mandates and discussing what they are and a lot less standing on a soap box and yelling about it.

Bob Loblaw:

What are the nine Westchester mandates Mr. Astorino references and where can I read about them? Mr. Grace mentions prevailing wage laws. I assume that's one, where can I find and read these mandates?

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