In his 2016 State of the State address, the governor admitted that property taxes were “the killer tax” in New York state. He wasn’t wrong. During his tenure, over 1 million New Yorkers have fled the state. They’re escaping to places with more opportunities, better jobs, and, critically, much lower property taxes.
Nothing he’s done since shows that he’s serious about tackling that problem. In fact, his recent executive budget proposal is full of misguided policies that would hammer local governments with new costs and stick property taxpayers with the bill.
One of the most significant costs for our local governments is the state’s Medicaid program. The governor has totally mismanaged it. Overspending on the program accounts for approximately $3 billion of his ballooning budget deficit. Rather than controlling costs at the state level, the governor plans to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid costs to overburdened local government leaders. They will have no choice but to pass the costs on to property taxpayers.
To make matters worse, the governor’s budget cuts Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding by $59 million. This is important state aid that localities rely on to provide services, invest in infrastructure repairs and promote public safety. Again, the governor’s rationale is clear — he’d rather invest in his pet projects and continue to spend recklessly on his initiatives than invest in the basic services middle-class taxpayers deserve.
Too often, the governor requires local governments and school districts to comply with regulations and offer new programs without providing them any funding to make it happen. My Republican colleagues and I have continually pointed to these unfunded mandates as the culprit for high property taxes. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro estimates that 70 cents of every dollar in a county government’s budget has already been spent by the state. Our conference has drafted countless bills to change this. The governor has zero solutions in his budget.
The good news? This is not the final budget deal. Legislators across the state will be engaged in budget hearings, budget negotiations and vocally pushing their priorities for the state budget over the coming weeks. My focus is simple. I would rather see the state tighten its belt and spend within its means rather than push costs off on to local governments and property taxpayers.
Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, represents the 131st District in the New York State Assembly, which includes Ontario County and part of Seneca County.