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September 15, 2012

State balancing its budget on local taxpayers

Visit the budget section of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s website, and the first thing you’ll see is this self-congratulatory and self-aggrandizing statement:

“Thanks to the tough choices and the historic reforms we achieved last year, we are able to propose a pro-growth budget without broad cuts or new taxes, fees or borrowing. Our stronger fiscal position now allows us to tackle long overdue pension reform and mandate relief that will lower the cost of government, drive accountability in our schools to put students first, and leverage tens of billions of dollars of new private sector investment to create jobs without significant cost to the taxpayer.

“Through fiscal discipline and working in partnership with the private sector, we are strengthening our economy to create jobs and secure our state’s future. This budget represents the next step in our plan to transform New York State.”

Sounds great, huh?

Maybe the reason for Cuomo’s 70 percent approval rating is because the governor and Legislature appear to be fiscally responsible.

But dig a bit deeper, and — as the city of Oneonta and Otsego County are discovering — the state is balancing its budget on the backs of virtually every municipality in New York.

Otsego County is facing a projected $5.6 million budget shortfall, says County Treasurer Dan Crowell, and its options are not attractive. That’s because there are state-mandated, but not fully funded, programs the county can’t touch.

“The Sheriff’s Department’s road patrol and the Office for the Aging are extremely important local priorities” that are not state-mandated services, Crowell told The Daily Star. “It’s just a shame the state continues to load mandates on us in a way that could force us to get rid of higher local priorities.”

In Oneonta, Mayor Dick Miller and the Common Council have issues with the state, too.

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