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State Sen. Betty Little.
State Sen. Betty Little.

Little, counties look for mandate reform

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It appears that state Sen. Betty Little will play a bigger role in this year's debates in Albany. On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Little, a Republican, will join his newly created commission tasked with examining unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by the state.

In a statement, Little said unfunded mandates approved by the state legislature "push the financial burden down to the lowest rung of the ladder."

She joins a group of industry, labor and government officials. The panel was established to identify solutions to ways to reduce local taxes by cutting the costs of state programs they're charged with providing.

Many local government leaders have said that cutting mandates, especially on health care programs, is their top priority in the next session.

A 2% limit on property tax increases was another of Gov. Cuomo's key campaign issues. That could hamstring local governments struggling to balance their own budgets. Local officials said they were happy to hear the property tax cap coupled with mandate reform, but that the devil would be in the details. Emma Jacobs has more for the Innovation Trail.

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Alongside the property tax cap, the Governor also included plans for a statewide mandate relief team, to address challenges for local governments in paying for required services.

Mark Lavigne, the spokesman for the New York State Association of Counties, calls unfunded state mandates the "root causes of property tax crisis facing in New York State."

Lavigne says it's good to hear the property tax and mandate relief being put on the table together, "We need to couple property tax case with mandate relief and we believe that's what the governor said we are going to do."

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan sits on the New York Council of Mayors task force on unfunded mandates.  he agrees, "If you don't solve the problems in a comprehensive manner that helps all the federal, state and local governments, then you're just pushing the problems onto somebody else. you'll still have suffering."

Details on the governor's proposals should arrive in the coming weeks.

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