Posts tagged: new york state association of counties

Reforming Local Government In New York

The New York State Capitol in AlbanyAccording to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, our system of local government is broken. There are 10,521 units of government that duplicate services creating needless, wasteful bureaucracies. He is proposing legislation to empower citizens and local governments to consolidate or dissolve these redundant entities.

You can read all about it on the Attorney General’s website. On the same site, you can also watch a half-hour video of AG Andrew Cuomo giving a presentation on reforming local government.

In a December 2008 press release Cuomo said: “Despite New Yorkers drowning for decades in some of the nation’s highest taxes, local leaders have been blocked from reforming local government in an effort to cut government waste and reduce the tax burden. During this economic crisis, leaders have an historic opportunity to fundamentally reform this state’s patchwork quilt of local government entities. These layers upon layers of taxing entities have a chokehold on state residents, and antiquated and arcane laws governing them perpetuate government inefficiency. Our goal is to reform those laws so communities, where appropriate, can reduce local government burden and reduce the cost of living in this great state.”

He is right. There are too many levels of local government. This may have made sense years ago, but it doesn’t make sense today. It has to change.

Cuomo goes on to say that current laws make reform almost impossible. The laws are inconsistent and difficult to understand, even for lawyers working for the Attorney General! Cuomo is proposing new legislation to empower the average citizen with the ability to initiate the consolidation or dissolution process for all local government entities.

Governor David Paterson had this to say: “We need to help our working families by doing everything we can to lower the cost of government. We cannot achieve real, sustainable property tax relief without addressing local government efficiency…. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo for addressing the root cause of these inefficiencies; layers of bureaucracy that duplicate service and drive up costs to residents.”

New York State Senator Betty Little said: “The state fiscal crisis is forcing every level of government to look at ways to control spending and increase efficiency. As a result, more communities are now interested in examining dissolutions and consolidations as a way to avoid property tax increases.”

Cuomo says that consolidating or dissolving inefficient local governments can save New Yorker’s an estimated 5 to 22 percent on their property taxes, which are the highest in the nation. Even if it is only 5 percent, I’ll take it. When was the last time your property taxes went down?

The Attorney General’s office has been conducting investigations into waste, fraud and abuse at various levels of government. Those investigations have resulted in numerous settlements and convictions that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars.

I would like to see Cuomo join forces with Thomas Suozzi who was the chairman of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief.  I wrote about the Commission’s report in a previous post, “Why Are Property Taxes In New York So High“.

New York needs to get moving on consolidating local governments and school districts. Having the highest local property taxes in the nation makes New York an undesirable place to live or start a business.

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) recently released a report called, “The Gathering Storm, The Challenges Confronting the Future of New York.” It was written by Jeff Osinski, Director of Research and Education, New York State Association of Counties. It is a publication of NYSAC and the Dennis A. Pelletier County Government Institute, Inc.

The title, “The Gathering Storm” was no accident. It is the title of the first book in Sir Winston Churchill’s six volume memoir, “The Second World War.”

In the Forward to the NYSAC report, Stephen J. Acquario,  Executive Director says, “There is no question that our state faces an important crossroad. We face two possible futures: one where we continue to lose people, businesses and jobs to other states; or one in which we leverage our strengths to rebuild our economy, foster innovation and attract people and businesses.

“It is time that the leaders in this state—state and local leaders—work together to turn this ship of state in a different direction. We need to examine our public policy habits that have caused decades of overspending, overtaxing, over-regulating and overmandating. If our counties and our communities are going to grow again, state leaders need to fundamentally change the way they do business in Albany.”

The Introduction to the report says, a recent study conducted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania forecasts that 17 of the top 50 counties in population loss in the nation by the year 2020 will be New York counties.

The financial news network CNBC ranks New York State as the most expensive state in the nation in which to do business. Forbes ranks the state 49th in its business cost rankings. CEO Magazine ranks us 50th and the national Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council ranks New York State’s tax burden 44th.

New York also ranked 46th in costs of basic essentials, food, housing and energy. Only Alaska, New Jersey, California and Hawaii ranked higher in the costs for basic essentials.

New York ranked 49th in the quality of the workforce.

Is anybody in Albany listening?

What is it going to take for the New York State Assembly and Senate to stop being Democrats or Republicans and do what is best for the citizens of New York state?

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