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Astorino: Albany's Unfunded Mandates Hurt Westchester

Ossining Mayor Hanauer; Lisa Davis, Westchester-Putnam School Boards Assoc.; Rob Astorino; William Mooney Jr., Westchester County Association; Kelly Chiarella, Westchester-East Putnam Regional PTA; Louis N. Wool, Lower Hudson Council of School Super.
Ossining Mayor Hanauer; Lisa Davis, Westchester-Putnam School Boards Assoc.; Rob Astorino; William Mooney Jr., Westchester County Association; Kelly Chiarella, Westchester-East Putnam Regional PTA; Louis N. Wool, Lower Hudson Council of School Super. Photo Credit: Contributed

County Executive Rob Astorino writes a monthly column for The Daily Voice.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- When 85 cents of every property tax dollar collected by Westchester County is sent straight up the Thruway to Albany, it’s clear the system is broken.  And that’s just county government.  The imbalance also applies to schools, businesses and local governments.

In 2011, Albany passed legislation capping property tax increases at 2 percent, which was supposed to help lower the tax burden borne by Westchester, where people pay the highest property taxes in the nation.

But mandate relief was also supposed to be part of the deal as a way of putting the brakes on spending. That relief is still nowhere in sight, especially now that the 2013 legislative session has ended without any real action.

Capping revenue without capping Albany’s uncontrolled spending just adds to the crushing burden we all face at the local level.

In Westchester, just nine unfunded mandates from Albany will cost county government $464 million this year. The breakdown:

• Medicaid – $225 million • Pensions – $91 million • Preschool Special-education – $42 million • Public Assistance – $40 million • Indigent Defense – $18 million • Child Welfare – $17 million • Probation – $15 million • Early Intervention – $13 million • Youth Detention – $3 million

Without reform, the system will collapse of its own weight.  To Albany, I say: Stop governing like ostriches and start working with us on real structural reform that will bring relief to taxpayers.

It’s time to end the corrosive effects of unfunded mandates. Albany must be held accountable. Local governments, schools, businesses and taxpayers need help and they need it now.

For this reason I joined a bipartisan grassroots coalition of Westchester citizens, schools, businesses and local governments to help send a simple, yet strong message to Albany: “Stop Taking Our Power.”

Stop taking our power to decide how our local tax dollars are spent.

Stop taking our power to grow our local businesses and create jobs.

Stop taking our power to educate our children.

One way you can help is by making your voice heard simply by visiting STOPAlbany.com and clicking to send a letter to your state representatives.  It only takes a minute.

Help me send a message to Albany that while this year’s legislative session has ended, their obligation to deliver mandate relief to taxpayers has not.

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