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Schenectady County to state: Pay our half

In an effort to lower the proposed 12.9 percent property tax increase in the 2009 County Operating Budget, legislators at the Tuesday, Oct. 14, meeting discussed urging the state to assume the full cost of the non-Federal share of the Medicaid program, or, if that plan falls though, to increase income taxes paid by those earning more than $1 million.

Currently, New York is the only state in the country that requires its local governments to share in half the cost of the non-federal portion of the Medicaid program. In Schenectady County, the Medicaid program represents the largest single-program expense. Currently, Schenectady County payments to Medicaid account for $31.4 million of the overall mandated costs borne by the county, which is a 71.5 percent increase since 2001. The result of this mandate is high property taxes for county residents.

On Tuesday, county legislators said that if the state were to assume the full cost for the non-federal share of the Medicaid program, Schenectady County could cut its real property tax rate by approximately 50 percent.

The legislature voted 10-to-4 to direct a copy of the resolution urging New York State to assume the full cost for the non-Federal share of the Medicaid program to Gov. David Paterson.

If the state would assume more than one-half of the cost, we could knock off that 12.9 percent tax levy increase, said Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady.

The county Legislature also passed a resolution proposing the governor and the state Legislature consider an income tax hike on the wealthiest members of Schenectady County, those making $1 million or more to compensate for Medicaid costs.

Jim Buhrmaster, Republican candidate for the 21st Congressional District, dissented for this vote, which passed 10-to-4.

"[I voted this way] because of my constituents. I'm there to represent Niskayuna, Scotia and Glenville, and very simply, over 80 percent of them said to me that those making over $1 million should pay," said Buhrmaster, R-Niskayuna.

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