Fighting For Mandate Relief
By Legislator Alden H. Wolfe (D- Montebello)
Rockland County Legislature
As we propel ourselves into the budget process for next year, we are once again coming face-to-face with the behemoth of state mandated programs. State mandates require that our county government spend money to subsidize, in part or whole, the cost of services such as Pre-K, Medicaid, and other social service and health programs.
These mandates collectively cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. For years, we’ve lobbied our state representatives to pass legislation in Albany that would reduce that burden on county taxpayers, and fortunately, some progress on that front has been made. For example, our mandated expense for the Early Intervention Program has been reduced from over $7 million 10 years ago, to just over $3 million for the coming year. The growth in Medicaid costs has also been capped, and we’ve seen a reduction in our overall Medicaid expenses year-to-year.
While there’s little that we can do to directly affect policy at the state level, we’ve been proactive in doing what we can locally. For example, last year the County Legislature created several new Medicaid fraud investigator positions, which to date have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Those positions originally were slated to be cut from the 2016 budget, but working in bipartisan fashion, the Legislature restored those positions, and they are back to work uprooting fraud within our county.
We will continue to make our voices heard on the issue of state mandates. Money being put toward mandated programs – if freed up through mandate reform – could also serve county taxpayers if they were to be used for deficit reduction and long-term financial planning, or better yet, tax relief. These measures would significantly reduce county property taxes, making Rockland more affordable for our families.
If you’d like to find out more about the impact of state mandates on county finances, I encourage you to take a look at our Citizen’s Guide to the 2016 Budget, which is available at the County Legislature’s web page, accessible through www.rocklandgov.com.