Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this week the signing of an executive order to create a team of private and public sector individuals charged with finding ways to cut the unfunded and underfunded mandates that help make New York one of the most taxed states in the nation.
The Mandate Relief Redesign Team will review unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by the New York state government on school districts, local governments and other local taxing districts. Such mandates include legal requirements that a local district provide a program, project or activity on behalf of the state.
The group, which will include representatives from private industry, education, labor and government will look for ways to reduce the costs of mandated programs, identify mandates that are ineffective and outdated, and determine how school districts and local governments can have greater ability to control expenses.
"Families as well as businesses are leaving New York because they can no longer afford to be here," said Cuomo. "These unfunded and underfunded mandates are one reason why taxes are so high, and this new Mandate Relief Redesign Team will begin a top-to-bottom review of the system to help bring needed relief to taxpayers."
The governor will appoint up to 20 members of the Mandate Relief Redesign Team, including:
•Larry Schwartz, senior advisor to Cuomo, who will serve as a chair; the governor may appoint additional chairs;
•Representatives of organized labor, businesses, school districts and municipalities;
•State officers with relevant expertise;
•Four members of the New York State Legislature: one recommended by each of the speaker and minority leader of the Assembly and the temporary president and minority leader of the Senate;
•The lieutenant governor and director of the budget will serve as non-voting members.
The team was expected to begin working by Jan. 7, and will submit a first set of recommendations to Cuomo by March 1, for consideration in the fiscal year 2011-12 budget process. The team will continue its review until the end of fiscal year 2011-12.
State government critics have long argued that New York's unfunded and underfunded mandates drive up costs of schools, municipalities, and the property taxes that support them. Due in part to these mandates, New York now has some of the highest taxes in the nation:
•New York has the highest local taxes in America as a percentage of personal income - 79 percent above the national average;
•New York has the second highest combined state and local taxes in the nation;
•Median property taxes paid by New Yorkers are 96 percent above the national median;
•Property tax levies in New York grew by 73 percent from 1998 to 2008 - more than twice the rate of inflation during that period;
•When measured in absolute dollars paid, Westchester, Nassau and Rockland are respectively the first, second and fifth highest-taxed counties in the nation;
•When property taxes were measured as a percentage of home value in 2009, nine out of the top 10 counties in the nation were all in upstate New York.