Counties Push for Cuomo to Let Them Off the Hook

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New York’s counties are making a push to get Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to let them off the hook for some mandates that they say are bringing some to the brink of bankruptcy.

Steve Acquario, with the New York Association of counties, said his lobby and advocacy group has already begun researching laws governing municipal bankruptcies, in case struggling counties in New York have need of guidance.

“Yes, we can declare bankruptcy,” Acquario said. “But it’s a drastic measure, what is that telling the people of New York?  That we can’t run our government? It’s a terrible situation.”

The gap between what counties take in from property taxes and what they pay for state-mandated programs will reach $4.2 billion annually by the end of the decade, he said.  

Acquario said the largest mandate that accounts for 25 percent of the state’s $54 billion in annual Medicaid costs.

Cuomo and the legislature have already taken over all county Medicaid expenses that rise above 3 percent each year, but have not agreed to take over all of the $7.5 billion in costs to counties and New York City.

Counties say they are also squeezed between the recently enacted 2 percent property tax cap and state rules.  

In Cortland County, located in Central New York, taxation is almost at its constitutional limit. Several others are under a state-run financial control board. And still others are spending down their reserves at an alarming rate.  

Cuomo appointed a task force to try to provide some relief from mandates. It was due to issue a report last June, but missed that deadline and has not set a new date to report.