Counties worry state will shift more Medicaid costs to localities, driving up taxes

Staff Reports Posted 30 March 2016 at 12:00 am

One of the issues emerging in the waning days of state budget negotiations is funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to low-income residents.

Medicaid is already consuming $54 billion a year in New York, far more than in any other state. New York requires counties to pay towards the program and it’s a big factor in the high property taxes in New York.

The state, however, had capped the share from counties. But now Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to squeeze $250 million more from counties to pay towards the rising costs of Medicaid.

That has ignited protests from county governments around the state.

“The state’s reliance on the local tax base has proven to be a loser for the local taxpayer for decades with the end result being the highest local taxes in the nation,” said William A. Cherry, president of the New York State Association of Counties. “County leaders strongly oppose this proposal advanced by the Governor and urge the Legislature to reject it in its entirety. Acting in haste to secure an ‘on time budget’ at the expense of local taxpayers is a disservice to the people of New York and will have long-term negative consequences.”

The move could add $300,000 for Orleans County property owners in their county taxes, said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer.

“New York State is the only state in the nation that forces this kind of expense onto localities,” Nesbitt said. “We sit here and relatively quietly eat the false narrative that evil local government is the cause of high property taxes in New York State and now we have to watch as the state prepares to open the flood gates again of unfunded mandates and let it fall right on the heads of local property taxpayers.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia) put out a statement today, condemning the cost shift to counties for the Medicaid program.

“I am outraged at the thought of the governor ending the expenditure cap for counties,” Hawley said. “Over one-third of our entire state budget is spent on Medicaid, and now the governor and his New York City cronies want upstate to pay even more because they can’t get their finances in order. That is absolutely outlandish. Our counties cannot afford any more expensive Albany mandates. Eliminating the cap would cause expenses to be passed down to homeowners in the form of higher property taxes. Downstate’s tax and spend mentality is out of control and I plan to fight tooth and nail against this injustice.”