NYSAC Update on the Veto of the Public Defense Mandate Relief Act

January 3, 2017

Dear NYSAC Board,
As you know, this weekend the Governor vetoed the Public Defense Mandate Relief Act (S.8114/ A.10706). This bi-partisan bill was sent to the Governor after being passed unanimously by the Senate and the Assembly as they recognized the importance of both strengthening the criminal justice system as well as providing impactful mandate relief for our local taxpayers.

The Association will not stop advocating for this legislation and for mandate relief, and we plan to use our resources to combat this veto in the 2017 Legislative Session. We anticipate you will be asked locally about this veto and how it impacts your county. Attached to this letter is the Governor’s Veto Message #306 for your review. As you can see the message is clear: the Governor states this bill is only a cost shift from county government to the State.

If you have an opportunity, it would be helpful if you could please define this veto action from the county property taxpayer point of view.

Property taxes are too high in New York State, and those high taxes are driving population out of our state. Unfunded state mandates, which are Albany’s way of creatively shifting the costs of state programs on to the backs of local governments and their property taxes. Nine state mandates equal 90% or more of the county property tax bills that will arrive in New Yorker’s mailboxes this week. If the state starts to take back the costs of state programs, which they could have done with the Public Defense Mandate Relief Act, then counties can lower county property taxes.

It is the State, through their laws and regulation, that controls how programs such as indigent defense operates. They don’t lower the costs of these programs because they do not have to pay for these programs. When the State takes on the fiscal responsibility for their programs they will also change current operational requirements, find efficiencies, and save taxpayer money. We have already seen this blueprint with the Medicaid Cap, and it has worked. After the State took over larger portions of Medicaid
payments from the counties, the State changed the operational structure resulting in billions in savings to the overall program.

Our local governments are operating under a property tax cap. When it passed in 2012, we did not oppose the property tax cap based on the State’s promise that as we locally cut services, consolidate operations, and cut spending, they would provide mandate relief and lower the costs the state imposed on counties. The counties have stepped up and fulfilled their end of the bargain for all New Yorkers. The State Legislature unanimously passed the Public Defense Mandate Relief Act, proving they are willing to help.

Please know that we will continue to work with the Governor and Legislature to support this legislation, and advocate for state mandate relief proposals that are introduced in the 2017 Legislative Session, which begins tomorrow.

Sincerely,

William E. Cherry
President
New York State Association of Counties

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