MAYVILLE - A Chautauqua County legislator is calling for support to curb local tax dollars from going to state-mandated programs.
Those programs, according to George Borrello, R-Irving, are draining the county of its local tax dollar resources.
In fact, he said, 80 percent of the county's budget goes toward the funding of state mandated programs and fixed costs, including Medicaid, Early Intervention, probation and pensions.
A resolution to dedicate May 25 as "Mayday for Mandate Relief" was brought forward during an Administrative Services Committee meeting Monday in Mayville. The resolution passed unanimously after little discussion and will head to the legislature floor next week for adoption.
The resolution, sponsored by Borrello, calls on the Mandate Relief Council to take "swift action" in submitting a package of proposals to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to be voted on by state representatives during the 2012 legislative sessions.
"What I think is important for taxpayers to understand is what mandate relief really entails," Borrello said last week to the OBSERVER. "I hope this resolution will shed some light on what burden (from state mandates) fall onto them."
Borrello said he drafted the resolution with the help of the New York State Associations of Counties, which has been vocal about mandate reform. He added that counties all across the state will recognize "Mayday" this month.
"The counties work together," the Irving Republican said. "This is one of those things. I hope this creates a grassroots support to get more state representatives on board.
"Our local representatives have had their hands tied due to downstate liberals. I hope there is enough ground swell support to help our representatives."
Gaining support for the resolution from the county executive is already a lock, considering mandate relief has become the calling card for Greg Edwards in recent years.
"We're cutting things we want to have," Edwards said. "Why it is so hard to get Albany to recognize this is beyond me. The solutions are very simple."
Those cuts are hindering school budgets, the county executive said, which has placed a burden onto school officials to trim staff and reduce curriculum.
"It's impossible for them to create school budgets," he added. State mandates have resulted in "lost jobs, lost pay for kids and lost pay for teachers."
Edwards said three things need to happen in order to reform state mandates: prohibit all new unfunded mandates through laws and a constitutional amendment; force state lawmakers to be accountable for their spending; and avoid shifting the burden of mandates from county taxpayers to state taxpayers.
"We just can't simply shift those costs onto taxpayers," he said. Lawmakers "need to be accountable for their spending. They are not accountable for their decisions."
In March, Edwards ventured to Albany where he submitted written testimony to the Mandate Relief Council, an 11-member executive and legislative board charged with reviewing and promoting proposals to reduce regulatory burdens on local governments and school districts.
Cuomo enacted a law to create the mandate council as part of his relief package estimated to save municipalities and school districts $125 million. The governor also helped pass a law that caps the amount of Medicaid growth over the next three years.
Edwards, who also serves as president of the New York State County Executives' Association, said efforts of the governor are a good start for mandate reform. However, he stressed, more needs to be done for local municipalities.
"I can speak for all the counties across New York (that operate in NYSCEA) that we are totally committed to forcing this sort of reform onto New York state," Edwards said. I will take any help I can get for local taxpayers in Chautauqua County. The (Medicaid) cap was a start. It's not increasing as fast now; we deserve more. What I don't want to see happen is people in Albany claim victory over this. Just because it's not increasing as fast is not a success. It's the first step in a long process. We're thankful for that little relief but it's just the start."
If approved by the legislature, the resolution will be forwarded to Cuomo and members of the state Legislature.
Borrello said he expects to see several legislators sign on as sponsors to the resolution before it is put to a vote.
"I think the support will be there," he said. "The more the better."