Always read the fine print.
Good advice, but it takes on added importance when the people who are getting that message are the ones who wrote the tiny letters in the first place.
To the surprise of many who follow closely the intricacies of state government in New York, the much-debated measure to remove most 16- and 17-year-olds from the adult court system came with a penalty attached, one that has nothing to do with the issue.
The change will be costly, with estimates of up to half a billion dollars for facilities and staffing. The state has money in the budget to help compensate counties that will have to bear those costs. But counties will be able to tap state funds only if they continue to stay on the good side of the state tax cap, a restriction that started at 2 percent and has headed toward zero as inflation continued to be low. With some increase in inflation, counties and other governments, including schools, have a bit more wiggle room. But they also have made it clear that they feel pinched by this measure, and more have been considering the need to break through the cap and raise budgets in a way that would bring the local tax increase above the limit set by the cap.
There have always been incentives to stay below the cap, the most obvious one concerning schools, which need to get a supermajority of voters to approve any budget that raises taxes beyond the amount set in any given year. Most such votes fail, and most school boards have learned not to bother to try to get approval except when it is unavoidable and there is a good possibility of public support.
Local governments do not need to subject their budgets to public approval. All a town or village or county needs to get is a majority of the board to approve a budget that goes above the cap, a vote that often takes place far away from the next election at which voters might register their disapproval.
There have been incentives and disincentives keeping these local budgets in check, but the change in the way the criminal justice system handles older teens is going to be the most powerful yet. Many in county government, including local district attorneys, objected to the change because they felt it would hamper their ability to prosecute serious crimes. Their objections failed, and now they, as leaders of their counties, are finding out that legislators not only ignored their legal objections by voting for the budget including the reforms, they also used that vote to strengthen enforcement of the tax cap, something that is very unpopular in local government circles.
It is not clear how many local legislators understood or even knew what they were doing with this vote. But it does offer another lesson in the need to reform the way the Legislature has chosen to lump all important decisions into one huge package and require an up-or-down vote instead of debating and voting on measures that truly should be decided on their individual merits.