In my opinion the biggest challenges that Allegany County faces, come from the Federal and State governments. We could manage our financial affairs just fine if they would leave us alone. Unfortunately both the Federal and State governments are determined to meddle in local affairs and tell us what we have to do, and how we have to do it. To add insult to injury, the State government then has the audacity to tell us that we cannot raise taxes to pay for the new programs and burdens that it imposes upon us.
On Wednesday evening, January 2, 2013, while attending the annual meeting of local chapter of Farm Bureau I was asked an extremely interesting question. The question was “What needs to change for things to improve in Allegany County and similarly situated rural counties?” In my opinion the single most important change that could happen is for “Big Government” to allow local governments to address local issues and concerns using local resources at levels that reflect local values. Big Government shouldn’t try to impose “one size fits all” solutions upon local governments. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened.
Washington and Albany think they are all wise and have all the answers. They adopt one set of standards that is imposed upon every community, whether it fits or not. This mentality imposed the Jail and Courthouse mandates on Allegany County. It has also imposed expensive health programs, Welfare, Medicaid, highways, and Assigned Counsel programs. Isn’t it obvious that circumstances in Manhattan, Albany, and Belmont are radically different. Why can’t we apply local solutions to local needs, reflecting local values and priorities.
The Medicaid Program is the largest single mandate imposed upon Allegany County. We have no control over any aspect of this program even though we contribute more than $10 million per year for it. The State sets the eligibility criteria as well as the benefit package. NYS Medicaid offers the most generous Medicaid benefits in the nation. Why should we offer the same benefits as Manhattan or Albany? Why can’t we determine who should receive those benefits? Why should Medicaid benefits be superior to most private insurance or Medicare benefits?
Washington and Albany need to let local governments have more local control. That would solve a lot of problems.