County Executive’s Corner: Politics Disguised as Populism

By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

Governor Andrew Cuomo thinks that local governments need a lecture on how to save money.

He publicly “ordered” all county executives to convene meetings to develop plans to cut property taxes and then put the plan to a vote. No conversation, no discussion, no respect for fellow executives ¬– just an edict from a press podium.

Beyond the political overreach, this is an interesting idea. Too bad he didn’t first discuss this plan with county executives. And too bad he didn’t first visit Rockland.

We could teach him a thing or two.

While the governor is touring the state making grand plans and pronouncements – closing a power plant without saying where our power is going to come from, freeing a convicted cop-killer, etc. – here in Rockland we’ve been doing serious work.

In the past three years, we have focused on cutting spending, reorganizing our government and keeping our hands out of the taxpayers’ wallet.

During the three years of my administration we have cut spending 9 percent. That’s a savings of $67 million of taxpayers’ money.

We have reorganized our county government for maximum efficiency — abolishing jobs that are no longer relevant and creating new ones that are. Along the way we have reduced the size of our county government 22 percent.

How about if the governor does the same on the state level?

And, miraculously, we have stayed within the very stringent 1.17 percent tax cap set by the governor.

I sat miraculous because most of our taxes go to pay unfunded state mandates courtesy of none other than Gov. Cuomo.

The same person who is lecturing counties on the need to save money is the same one who is spending our money and sending us the bill.

In Rockland, we call that chutzpah.

During Cuomo’s tenure, the impact of state mandates went from 81 percent of the entire county property-tax levy to an unbelievable 99 percent of the entire property-tax bill in 2015.

This happened entirely on the governor’s watch. He increased our costs and told us to pay the tab. We, local government, are paying for Cuomo’s free-spending ways.

And therein lies his sleight of hand – passing costs along to county governments so he can claim his budget is austere. That’s like me having my neighbor pay to fix my car and buy my groceries and then gloating over how I kept my household budget in check!

And then there’s Medicaid. New York is the only state in the nation that charges counties for Medicaid. In Rockland County that was about $66 million in 2016 — equal to 55 percent of the county property-tax levy.

We could slash that bill if Cuomo’s administration allowed us to establish rules, including means testing. We are doing our best to cut fraud. Why doesn’t the state help?

We also have to contend with the burden of local spending for schools, which make up about two thirds of any property tax bill.

Again, despite all odds we are making progress here in Rockland even though my administration started far behind the eight-ball.

We inherited a $138 million deficit brought about by irresponsible fiscal spending.

Now, three years into my administration, our deficit stands at a projected $10 million.

My administration has reduced the deficit by an annual average of $10.6 million – far surpassing the $4 million per year recommend by the state comptroller.

Our bond rating – near junk when I took office – has been upgraded four times. We are now rated just one notch below “A”.

We are attracting new jobs and investment to Rockland.

We brought Rockland back from the abyss, while the state, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, has now piled on an unbelievable $13, 487 of debt upon each man, woman and child in New York.

Which example do you think should be followed?