Bridge tolls, Medicaid biggest concern of county leaders

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BY KATHY KAHN

Rob Astorino (Westchester), Mary O’Dell (Putnam) and Ed Day joined Pattern for Progress’ County Executive Forum
Rob Astorino (Westchester), Mary O’Dell (Putnam) and Ed Day joined Pattern for Progress’ County Executive Forum

Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress hosted county executives from Putnam, Rockland and Westchester, giving top officials an opportunity to discuss the issues they face, which included the new Tappan Zee Bridge, mandates and the rising cost of Medicaid.

The new span that connects Westchester and Rockland will have a sleek new look (and perhaps a new name) when it opens to the public in 2017, but how much is it actually costing New Yorkers?

While Astorino and Day questioned how much the new bridge will really cost when all is said and done, they are also concerned how much the actual toll will be when it opens for business. “This is a major problem for our commuters,” said Day, who said the task force that was supposed to be formed to monitor the cost of the new bridge never came to fruition.

“When you apply for a mortgage,” said Astorino, “you don’t leave out your source of income…..we don’t know where the money is really coming from for the bridge or who will pay for it when all is said and done. We also don’t really know when the toll will be raised and by how much.” (For many, the Bear Mountain Bridge may become the preferred alternative for getting into Westchester.)

The new bridge was not the only source of angst. The $15 minimum wage that has been repeatedly been called out as a job killer, not creator—the dismal business-unfriendly atmosphere New York offers (Now 50th for creating/retaining business)and the lack of term limits were also gripes the three county executives shared with the audience at the Crowne Plaza April 18.

“We don’t need career politicians,” said Astorino, who pledged to run two terms and step down, as did Ed Day when he was elected. “If you can’t get it done in two or three terms, then let someone else try. People who begin life in politics and stay there in various political jobs have really no idea how to connect with the real world or real problems that workers confront.”

The cost of Medicaid continues to be a sticking point. Without exception, it eats up more than 70 percent of the real property tax revenue in every county. New York was the only state that didn’t partner with the Federal Government on Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Day suggested the counties, not state government, should decide how its Medicaid dollars should be spent.

These trials and tribulations, among others, will no doubt continue unless New Yorkers can vote to change the rules—and that can only be done by a Constitutional Convention. Residents will have that opportunity in 2017 if enough lawmakers can agree on it. The challenge? Getting them to agree to convene one.

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