Weekly Feature



2017-01-19 / Editorial

Cuomo shifts blame for state’s affairs to counties, towns

JOSEPH LORIGO
Erie County Legislator

This past week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took his “State of the State” address on a tour across New York. In his speech, he made several promises and put forward a number of ambitious proposals. Unfortunately for you and me, the governor never mentioned how New Yorkers are going to be able to afford his lofty financial plans.

It’s easy to sound positive and upbeat when you’re spending other people’s money. The reality is every one of these plans is expensive — and we are going to pay for it. Enough is enough.

While the governor is touting “free” college tuition, the “Buffalo Billion Squared,” a 750-mile trail across the state, and other high-cost initiatives, he also said he’s done “everything he can” to lower our tax burden, even going so far as telling New Yorkers, “You pay high taxes. Don’t be mad at me.” This is not only outrageous, but it is insulting to the hardworking men and women of this state.

New York State consistently ranks as one of the highest-taxed states in the country, and the bottom line reason for this is unfunded mandates New York State passes down to lower municipalities such as Erie County.

State and federal unfunded mandates forced on counties account for approximately 90 percent of the annual Erie County budget. They are crippling. The state tells us what services we must provide and what staffing levels we must maintain, but forces the overwhelming majority of the costs onto residents. As taxpayers, we are paying for the state’s increasingly costly agenda and being told to figure out for ourselves how to pay for it. The truth is, we can’t. Now, the governor isn’t just telling us he can’t do anything, he’s actually placing the blame on us, telling us to figure out solutions ourselves. I am proud to say that as chairman of the Finance and Management Budget Committee, I have helped provide three consecutive tax rate decreases to the residents of Erie County. We strive each and every year to at least provide some form of relief to our constituents.

If the governor really cared about boosting economic development, improving our infrastructure, and helping New Yorkers, he would make reducing the burden of unfunded mandates one of his top priorities. Instead, he just vetoed a piece of legislation that would have saved Erie County roughly $12 million a year from unfunded state mandates. Many of you have heard of his “free college tuition” proposal. I realize it sounds great, but in reality it is nothing more than a political stunt.He never mentions how it will be paid for, only that it will cost “approximately $163 million.” That’s laughable.

The truth is that it would cost $163 million if only 3 percent of eligible New Yorkers took advantage of the offer. If enacted, this plan could cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year. It’s time someone held the governor accountable for his fabrications.

Instead of campaigning in 2017 for a presidential race in 2020, he should focus on reducing unfunded mandates and our tax burden, helping economic development, and improving our infrastructure and the lives of all who live in New York State.

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