The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted by Chairman Cox to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, published Nov. 28. View the original version here.
To the editor:
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise was spot-on in its call for real mandate relief from Albany.
Driven by state and federal mandates that can eat up 85 percent or more of a county budget, New York property taxes are double the national average. Each year, the Tax Foundation shows upstate counties have the highest tax burden compared to property values in the nation.
While the governor joined our Senate Republican majority in passing one of the country's strongest property-tax caps, relief from the state mandates that are the major cause of high local property taxes has yet to be addressed.
Whereas candidate Cuomo promised "immediate" action on unfunded mandates, Gov. Cuomo's push for gay marriage sucked political energy away from the issue of mandate relief.
In February 2011, the New York State Association of Counties presented the Governor's Mandate Relief Team with a comprehensive prescription for mandate relief statewide (available at nygop.org). In addition to Medicaid and public pension reform, which the Enterprise rightly described as the two biggest unfunded mandate culprits, the NYSAC report outlined cost-saving measures in the areas of child welfare, preschool special education, early intervention, indigent defense, probation and youth detention.
The solutions are there. What is needed is a leader with the political courage to take action. Gov. Cuomo must step up to the plate and make real mandate relief a priority early in the next legislative session.
Under Article 7 of the 1929 amendments to the state Constitution, the governor has broad powers over the budget process. Under the law, the governor's budget proposal is automatically introduced on the floor of the Legislature. Legislators are prohibited from introducing additional appropriations bills until they "fully" act on the governor's proposals. All the pork, pet projects and special-interest giveaways must be submitted separately, subject to the governor's veto.
The last governor to use Article 7 powers effectively was George Pataki, when during his first term he pushed through tax cuts, workers' compensation reform, charter schools and other measures.
A similar bold approach on the part of Gov. Cuomo will bring mandate relief to New York's counties and the dose of fiscal sanity that comes with it.
Edward F. Cox
Chairman, New York Republican State Committee