VIEW FROM 197 MAIN
By MEG KENNEDY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
#KeepTheCap! This is a rallying cry for local government officials from around the state. What cap? The New York State 0% growth Medicaid Tax Cap that has been in place since 2012.
It goes hand in hand with another cap – the 2% cap on property tax levies that has been in place for NYS municipalities since roughly the same time.
They were instituted to work in tandem to decrease the pressure on local governments – to keep property taxes from increasing to meet the rising cost of providing Medicaid services to residents in all of the counties and New York City. The state would cover a portion of the increases and local governments would work harder to create efficiencies across the rest of their budgets.
For a decade this has worked, but the caps are in danger of diverging in this year’s state budget process. The Executive Budget reveals a strategy whereby the cap on the state side is removed and the cap on the local side stays the same, at the same time that $150 million of Medicaid costs are transferred to the counties and NYC.
The numbers that result are bringing together counties from across the state to send a unified message – Keep the Cap!
Earlier this month, county board Chair Dave Bliss and I spent the day in Albany. We were joined by dozens of county Officials and the staff of the state Association of Counties (@nyscounties).
We attended a meeting with the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Local Government. The message was clear. The message was urgent. Keep the Cap!
We have shown good faith on our end of the tax cap – bringing in budgets under 2% growth in the tax levy. Please work with us to avoid the fiscal stress this move will bring to local budgets.
There is no way the math works for us – without the help of NYS to share the costs associated with Medicaid at or near current levels, we cannot stay under 2% growth without making drastic cuts to non-mandated services. Even with cuts to such services, we would struggle.
We met with our local representatives in their offices in the Legislative Office Bldg and the Capitol. Assemblymen John Salka, Brian Miller and Chris Tague and Sen. Jim Seward expressed concern over the proposals and commitment to fight to #KeepTheCap. At the local level, this is a non-partisan issue. Everyone agrees that removing the cap on Medicaid spending would create fiscal stress in county budgets.
In an ideal world we promote prosperity and reduce the cost of Medicaid to each county by fostering economic development, the creation of jobs, expanding the tax base through increased investment and reducing the number of people who require assistance through upward mobility.
We can and should work toward that model.
In the short term, next year could bring unprecedented growth in the county’s share of the cost of Medicaid to our residents. New York is unique in having counties pay a share in this federal and state program. The cost of the program is set at state and federal levels. The 0% cap shields county government from the rising cost of the program that it neither controls nor designs. Keep the Cap! Protect local taxpayers.