One of the major problems that we face is that most people don’t even know what unfunded mandates are. We need to educate ourselves and others and wake up to what our State government has been getting away with!
What are unfunded/under-funded mandates?
An unfunded mandate is a statute or regulation that requires a state or local government to perform certain actions, yet provides no money for fulfilling the requirements. An under-funded mandate occurs when only a portion of the necessary funding is provided. When a federal or state government imposes a law or regulation without necessary funding, it becomes the responsibility of the state or local government to pay for the implementation of the law.
So who pays for these mandates?
- You pay through your local school and property taxes. The median in property taxes paid by New Yorkers is 96% above the national median. In 2009, when property taxes were measured as a percentage of home value, nine out of the ten top counties in the nation were all in Upstate New York. Statewide, 9 state mandates account for 90% of the total county tax levy. And there are over 100 unfunded/underfunded mandates in total!
- You pay in lost jobs. Businesses leave NY because of high taxes. This means loss of jobs for residents as well as a stagnant local economy.
- Your county government pays. As businesses and residents leave NY due to high local taxes, this results in lost revenue to your local government. However, the counties are still required to fund state mandates regardless of revenue streams and these costs increase every year. Counties are left in the difficult situation of having to cut local services in order finance state programs.
- Your kids pay. Class sizes increase and cuts are made to the teaching curriculum and extra-curricular activities as a result of the escalating costs of unfunded mandates in our school budgets.
- Your teachers and other school employees pay. Mandates restrict teachers’ abilities to teach and work with your kids in the best way possible given for each child, class, and school.
- Your school administrators pay. Mandates make it impossible to create reasonable school budgets. Mandates take time away from kids and put time on reporting and other bureaucratic activities.
Nine mandates consume 90% of the county tax levy collected in NY! As these costs rise each year, counties are forced to cut back on local services in order to pay for these mandates. As an example, in Rensselaer County, state mandated spending has increased by 54% while spending on local services has decreased by 11% over the 5-year period from 2007-2011.
Of these 9 mandates, Medicaid is by far the largest, consuming 30-40% of the county property tax levy state-wide. The others are listed below:
- Public Assistance
- Child Welfare
- Preschool Special Education
- Indigent Defense
- Early Intervention
- Youth Detention
Read the February 2011 report from NYSAC entitled Reforming Mandates, Reducing Costs to learn more about each of these mandates. NYSAC identified 240 ideas to reduce the costs of these mandates.
What is the goal for mandate relief?
Ultimately, we would love to see a state law and/or constitutional amendment prohibiting unfunded and underfunded mandates, both new and existing. In the meantime, we are looking for serious mandate reform. This includes two strategies: (1) applying common sense reforms to reduce the overall costs of these mandates, and (2) shifting the costs back to the state. We believe that these two strategies go hand-in-hand, because as the state is forced to take on the true financial responsibility of their own mandates, there will be a greater interest in reducing the costs of those mandates. As it stands right now, the state passes mandates without having to be accountable for the financial impact – this disconnect is what has led to the situation that we find ourselves in today.