These are challenging times for local governments. The economy is in a funk, and people are frustrated by the apparent lack of leadership and direction from their elected leaders. These would be formidable challenges under the best of circumstances, but they become impossible challenges when New York State intrudes, usurps and interferes with almost every aspect of local government. The State tells us what programs we must operate, what levels of benefits we must pay, what staffing is required, and what eligibility standards apply. Local governments are given responsibility, but not the resources or authority to accomplish objectives. We frequently get blamed for problems, but not allowed to innovate or experiment with new approaches or initiatives.
Allegany County currently spends more than $8.53 million on various mandated social welfare programs, besides the $10.03 million spent on Medicaid. When the tax cap was imposed in 2011 the State promised there would be “mandate relief” in 2012. That promised mandate relief is nowhere to be seen. Does that make the “tax cap” a success, or a failure? How are local governments supposed to cap taxes when the State continually mandates that we spend more money each year on State programs?
New York State essentially controls everything done by local governments. This is especially true for counties and school districts. Just last week Governor Cuomo announced that the practice of “fingerprinting” Food Stamp applicants is being discontinued. This practice has saved millions of dollars from fraud and duplicate payments. The Governor declared that fingerprinting “needlessly attached extra stigma to the program.” He noted that “Food Stamp” applicants can now apply from the comfort of their own homes. Why are we worried about stigma and convenience for those getting handouts, when working families are losing their homes because of high taxes? This is crazy. We need more local control, and less State control.