Politicians favor message, but share concerns over implementation
Gov. Andrew Cuomo might be worrying about the state of New York, but municipal leaders are concerned with how state initiatives will affect their communities.
Cuomo delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 5, speaking about reform and improvement of state government, but local representatives now must prepare for Cuomo’s initiative and goals. Response to Cuomo’s message in his speech seemed to be positive overall, but some lawmakers were worried about how initiatives would be implemented and what the effect the governor’s goals will have locally.
I have attended or watched at least 20 state of the state address, and I think that this was the best address that I have witnessed, said Chairwoman of the Schenectady County Legislature Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna. `I expected it to be kind of a downer, but it was actually inspirational, and at the same time realistic. I think what it provided is a road map to be able to get where we need to be, which is to cap property taxes, to reduce mandates on county and local governments and to make government work more efficiently.`
Republican Christopher Koetzle, supervisor for the Town of Glenville agreed Cuomo’s message was on target.
`I think it was a good realization of the issues facing New Yorkers, and I think it certainly set the tone going forward,` said Koetzle. `Government has to spend less and figure out how to deliver services with less spending.`
Rotterdam Town Supervisor Frank Del Gallo said he thought the speech was good, and Cuomo is the person to lead the state forward.
`I think [Cuomo] is going to do a great job, and I think that this is the guy that we have all been waiting for,` said Del Gallo. `The state needs to be turned around; it is just way out of hand. I know that in my heart I feel he is the right man for the job.`
Del Gallo thought Cuomo would be able to address tax issues effectively, but Niskayuna Town Supervisor Joe Landry said he is concerned.
`I want to see the details, and I want to see what he is talking about,` said Landry. `There were a lot of things in [the speech] talking about tax relief; it is very important to us and we always look for ways to relieve taxes, especially property taxes. There is also a flip side we are providing a lot of programs for the state, we are providing a lot of services for the state we have a lot of cost, so this whole tax relief for the electorate is great, but I want to see how it is going to affect us.`
The proposed tax cap has been an issue of concern for local school districts and local governments. Savage said the tax cap is an important issue, but the mandated costs from the state will need to be addressed if implemented.
`I think it [a tax cap] is important; it is an important issue and I think that property taxes are a huge burden in Upstate New York. I look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo to come up with a solution, but mandate relief has to be a part of that solution,` said Savage. `It is going to call for a lot of hard choices in the future, but I think we have no choice but to end the cycle where property taxes increase because of the costs are passed on to local governments have increased.`
Koetzle said he was concerned with the proposed tax cap and doesn’t believe it is the route for Cuomo to take for tax relief.
`I am particularly concerned about his proposed tax cap, because it is unrealistic, and it doesn’t address the real issue; the real issue is the number of state mandates placed on localities,` said Koetzle. `Tax caps sound good, and I guess politically they get you a good reaction but it is not really the answer and it is not going to help us deal with the tough problems we are facing.`
Koetzle said the real issue is to keep the state out of local governments business, such as passing on state mandates, which then municipalities have to figure out how to fund. On top of pension reform, he said removing the `Taylor Law,` The Public Employees Fair Employment Act, should happen.
That act has had a direct impact as Glenville’s union negotiations and health insurance concession have been made public, at times sparking heated debates. Koetzle said it can be hard for the town to negotiate with unions, because under the law, union members are allowed to keep the expired contract in effect until a new one is negotiated. This puts the town in a position to improve upon the previously offered contract, he said.
`Who has ever heard of a contract staying in effect after it expires?` said Koetzle.
Municipalities sharing service was an area Savage thought Cuomo was on targe.
`His message in providing incentives for local governments to share services, because I think that is another area we’ve been a leader in; saving taxpayers money by sharing services,` said Savage.
Koetzle said Cuomo promoting a consolidation of services is not always the best route to take, because municipalities might be too eager to receive the incentives.
`We have seen in this county alone that when a bad consolidation comes forward we can not just have a knee jerk reaction to it,` said Koetzle. `We ought to be thinking about a shared services model, rather than a consolidation model.`
One consolidation effort Koetzle doesn’t approve of is the unified central dispatch center, which doesn’t think will be the right moving for Glenville. There were areas he thought the town and the Village of Scotia could share services each excels in, such as the town taking over the highway department efforts and the village taking over parks.
`That’s the model the governor should be looking at, how can we share our services,` said Koetzle.
Watch Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address below