What is best for New York is mandate relief.
On Wednesday, at Greenburgh Town Hall, BEST4NY – an organization of Westchester residents founded in 2011 to advocate for better tax policy – unveiled a petition to be sent to politicians in Albany calling for mandate relief.
While the group praised the state for passing a two-percent cap on the tax levy, they have criticized the state legislature for not providing mandate relief along with it. Many municipalities have been forced to override the cap due to rising pension and health care costs, while school districts have been struggling to get budgets within the cap, often having to lay off personnel.
“Seventy-five to 80 percent of budgets are dictated and controlled by laws in place by New York State,” Jim McCauley, a member of the executive committee of BEST4NY, said. “How do we make an impact on the minds of legislators?”
BEST4NY decided that an online petition was the best way to get the attention of legislators. The petition, which went live last week, has been signed by New Yorkers from Plattsburgh to Long Island.
“We’re all paying attention to what is going on throughout the state,” McCauley said.
George Oros, chief of staff to County Executive Rob Astorino and a former county legislator, spoke about what citizens can do to influence politicians.
“You can make change,” Oros said. “But you have to be involved. You have to take a stand and propose solutions. No one is going to save the world but you can bring gradual incremental change.”
Oros praised the cap, but agreed that it needed mandate relief along with it. He said that municipalities should be reducing their levies, not capping spending. He said that pension and health care costs have been drastically increasing in the county, and employees do not contribute anything.
“You need to mobilize and hold leaders accountable,” Oros said. “Unfunded mandates are getting extremely expensive. At some point we won’t be able to maintain essential services.”