Counties would see big property tax reductions if NY paid for Medicaid like most other states

Posted 21 March 2017 at 7:57 am


NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) and New York State’s county governments commend Congressman Chris Collins for introducing legislation that would reduce county property taxes in New York State by $2.3 billion dollars.

The federal legislation introduced by Congressman Collins attempts to do what the State has been politically unwilling or unable to do.  It provides real mandate relief for counties, so that counties can begin to reduce property taxes in the State.

Governor Cuomo continues to highlight that the largest tax burden New Yorkers face is the property tax. County leaders agree 100 percent – property taxes are too high in New York, especially compared to other states. One of the reasons that we have high property taxes is that counties in New York are required to pay for State services and programs that other counties across the nation do not.

To further illustrate this point, across the nation, there are 3,069 counties. Together, the counties across the nation contribute about $9.7 billion each year in locally raised taxes to support the direct program costs of providing Medicaid services to recipients in their state (not including the costs of operating more than 1000 county owned hospitals, clinics and nursing homes).  Alarmingly, the local taxpayers in New York’s 57 counties and New York City are required under state law to pay $7.5 billion annually to support New York’s largest in the nation Medicaid program. That means New York’s county taxpayers spend more than triple what all the other county taxpayers in the nation pay combined!

We are disappointed that the State’s Lt. Governor, who has been a friend to counties, would oppose an action that would reduce property taxes and take a position against the state’s county government partners.  The Governor’s administration can’t have it both ways.  They cannot keep shifting costs to counties and force us to continue paying for their programs on the hand, and then demand lower property taxes on the other.

Providing counties in New York authority to charge a local sales tax to help finance a state designed and controlled Medicaid program may have been important in 1966, but since then state elected officials have dumped more than 40 other unfunded state mandates on county government and broken more promises on maintaining state funding through programs sold as “partnerships” between the state and counties than we care to mention.

Counties in other states do not need sales tax authority because they do not have such enormous fiscal burdens placed on them by their State elected leaders. The Kerr-Mills health program mentioned in the Lt. Governor’s press release started out as a “partnership” but was identified as a miserable failure by Congress within a few years because of a lack of resources with less than 1 percent of eligible seniors nationwide receiving services and less than 2 percent of seniors in New York State.

This is not a partisan issue. This is a stewardship issue.  In 2011, when Congress enacted the stimulus plan, Senator Chuck Schumer made sure to protect New York State county property taxpayers because of the role we play in paying for Medicaid.

Counties want to do the work of reducing property taxes for the homeowners and businesses in New York.

Again, we commend Congressman Collin for introducing this legislation, and we encourage the rest of our congressional delegation to sign on to the measure.

It’s time for the State to stop playing the blame game and start lowering the costs it imposes on counties so that we can begin to lower property taxes.

Stephen J. Acquario

NYSAC Executive Director