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Work With Local Governments, Not Against Them

New York State has often taken the wrong approach to working with our local governments and communities. One of the things I enjoy most about being an Assemblyman is finding the many ways I can work with the towns, villages, and counties in my district. Another large responsibility of mine as ranking Republican member of the Assembly Committee on Standing Committees is to ensure that legislation requested by local governments reaches the floor of the Assembly to be voted on.

The work between the state and municipalities functions best when it’s a collaborative process. I believe firmly that it’s those with their ears to the ground, the ones working the closest to our citizens, who have the best understanding of what our local communities need. A top-down approach seldom works as promised, if at all. Gov. Cuomo has yet to learn this.

One of the most pressing things facing all of us is the high cost of property taxes. The matter was partly addressed with a property tax cap. However, the governor never followed through with the significant unfunded-mandate relief that he promised all of us when he first sold us on the idea of a property tax cap.


Unfunded mandates on local governments are what have driven costs up and, in turn, raised our property taxes. Unfunded mandates are the hundreds of programs and policies that state government has imposed, but for which it has refused to pay. The New York State Association of Counties has identified that nine mandates alone account for 99 percent of the taxes levied by local governments. Unshackle Upstate says New York’s Cadillac-plan version of Medicaid spending eats up 80 percent of county spending alone. 

When such a significant number of local budgets are affected by these unwanted and excessively-expensive mandates, there isn’t much left with which to work. Our local municipalities have had to resort to cutting important services, cutting back on important investments in our communities, or raising taxes. These are options no local government likes to take. 

So here we are in another legislative session and the governor has yet to learn how these burdens have impacted our communities. In 2011, he established an unfunded mandate relief redesign team, which made many recommendations about how to provide such relief, but he failed to act on its recommendations. Instead, his tune over the last several years has changed to blaming our local governments. The tone has been more adversarial, rather than cooperative. In his budget proposal this year, Gov. Cuomo is requiring shared-services plans from our municipalities or they risk losing their Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) funding. 

AIM funding has been critical in helping our local governments make ends meet and pay for the services residents need without having to shift the burden further to taxpayers. The governor’s approach doesn’t help anyone involved. 

I recommend that the governor abandon this approach and address the real root of the problem — unfunded mandates. We must all work together to finally provide the relief and flexibility that our communities need.           

Marc W. Butler (R,C,I–Newport) is a New York State Assemblyman for the 118th District, which encompasses parts of Oneida, Herkimer, and St. Lawrence counties, as well as all of Hamilton and Fulton counties. Contact him at