Unfunded state mandates continue to be a big problem for local governments and school districts, and the three candidates running for the Republican line in New York's new 115th Assembly District all say they have a solution.
When Republican voters head to the polls on Thursday to pick their candidate, they will have three choices: incumbent Assemblywoman Janet Duprey of Peru, Plattsburgh educator Karen Bisso and Cadyville businessman David Kimmel.
For Kimmel, this primary is an elimination round, but Duprey and Bisso will be on the Nov. 6 ballot even if they lose Thursday: Duprey for the Independence Party and Bisso for the Conservative Party.
Republican Assembly candidates (from left) David Kimmel, Karen Bisso and Janet Duprey
Lawmakers have been talking for many years about easing state mandates on local governments, but so far, not much has been done to shift some of those burdens from local property taxes to state income and sales taxes.
The Enterprise asked each candidate what they would do to solve the problem. Their answers appear below in alphabetical order by last name. In some cases, answers have been edited for length.
Karen Bisso: Let's talk about baby steps and giant leaps. Baby step? New York state is supposed to pay 50 percent of the costs of our county probation departments. Currently, they are only paying 12 percent. The state should pick up the tab that they are supposed to.
Giant Leap? If you get rid of the Regional Economic Development Council and take the $870 million that it is wasting on frivolous grants, the state could then keep its promise to all 62 counties by providing each county $14.7 million in relief to the huge unfunded mandate called Medicaid. This would be an enormous relief to the counties in the 115th Assembly District, which would then eliminate the need to both raise property taxes and sales tax. This is a first step in making the area more attractive to potential employers.
Janet Duprey: Most counties in the state currently have a 4 percent sales tax that must be extended every two years by vote of the state Legislature. This is a cumbersome process, and there have been years when counties have worried about the loss of the additional 1 percent sales tax revenue that could be lost if the Senate and/or Assembly failed to act on the legislation. Used appropriately by local government to reduce real property taxes, the sales tax revenue is a direct benefit to the taxpayers. I have always felt the sales tax is the most equitable tax levied by government, in that those who spend more pay more.
We all agree and understand that taxpayers cannot afford further large increases in real property taxes. However, not everyone recognizes that for each mandate on the books there is a vocal and determined "lobby" effort to keep that particular mandate. All mandates were established in response to a real or perceived need of a particular special interest. It is incredibly difficult to eliminate mandates, as for each recommendation there are loud and convincing reasons to keep the mandates.
David Kimmel: I am of the opinion that lawmakers either lack the will or the creativity necessary to address the problem substantively. I have the will, and I have a plan.
In my first session, I will introduce a bill to amend the state Constitution to outlaw unfunded mandates. This is a better approach to the problem than the bill introduced by the incumbent which merely sought to require the state to fund future mandates. That attempt has thus far failed along partisan lines. Additionally, rather than address this huge problem through Constitutional amendment in 2010, the incumbent chose to support a Constitutional Convention, which was nothing more than a poorly veiled attempt to gather tea party support. I will introduce legislation to begin funding the unfunded mandates on the books. I will probably look for a single success story, something that is easy for members in the majority party to swallow.
Since many unfunded mandates pertain to education, I should also add that I would like full state funding of public education. This may seem like a paradox to some folks, but those states that have eliminated property taxes as a means of funding education have experienced significant economic growth.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.