Governor’s veto of NY-takeover of indigent defense will cost Orleans nearly $500K in 2017

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 January 2017 at 7:18 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto on Dec. 31 of the state takeover of indigent defense costs means Orleans County can expect to pay about $500,000 this year to provide attorneys for low-income defendants.

The counties state-wide have been pushing for the state to pay for the lawyers. The State Legislature agreed, but Cuomo rejected it saying it would cost the state about $800 million annually with little accountability.

Cuomo said he would propose his own plan to deal with the issue this year.

The indigent defense burden is one of many state-mandated programs where the cost is pushed on local governments, the New York Association of Counties said.

“We all know that property taxes are far too high in New York, and those high taxes are driving population out of our state,” said NYSAC President William E. Cherry. “Unfunded state mandates, which are Albany’s way of creatively shifting the costs of state programs down onto the backs of local governments, account for 90 percent or more of those tax bills that will arrive in New Yorker’s mailboxes this week.”

Chuck Nesbitt, chief administrative officer for Orleans County, said Cuomo and the State Legislature unfairly blame local governments for high property taxes, when the bulk of the taxes at the county level are driven by state-mandated programs.

“Unfortunately, we find again and again that there is a willingness on the part of New York State to ignore the idea that we as counties share with the state a commonality, the same people. There is a willingness to ignore the state role in the property tax problem,” Nesbitt writes in a Letter to the Editor today on the Orleans Hub.

Nesbitt serves as president of the New York State Association of County Administrators and Managers.

The New York Bar Association also supports a state takeover of indigent defense. The Legislature backed a seven-year phase-in of state assumption of the costs, now largely borne by county governments.

“We are disappointed by the Governor’s veto. Sponsors Senator John DeFrancisco and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahey crafted a thoughtful bill that had widespread support from county governments, the legal community and community organizations,” said Bar Association President Claire P. Gutekunst. “The State Bar Association’s priority continues to be enactment of a law to ensure that New York’s public criminal defense system provides meaningful legal representation to all indigent criminal defendants in New York, in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963).

“We hope to work with the Governor and Legislature to accomplish that goal early in the new year.”

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