Oswego County Legislature Chairman's Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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October 13, 2011

Medicaid Takeover Is Key to Lowering Local Property Taxes

When the state Legislature enacted a 2 percent property tax cap earlier this year, they pledged to provide mandate relief that would allow local governments and school districts to implement the tax cap. So far they have failed to deliver on their promise. Several months have elapsed and as county legislators work to develop the 2012 budget, it is imperative that state lawmakers take action to correct unfunded mandates.

New York State is one of a few states that require county taxpayers to pay for Medicaid costs. This year in Oswego County local property owners paid millions - $24,266,000 - for Medicaid. That is 66 percent of Oswego County’s property tax levy. The local Medicaid share will increase to more than $25,390,000 next year, and will continue to increase 3 percent annually unless changes are made.

State policymakers have complete control over the design of the state Medicaid program, but for decades they have forced local property taxpayers to pay the bill for their decisions made in Albany. With the recently enacted 2 percent property tax cap, counties are now being forced to consider cuts to essential services in order to fund mandated programs that they have no control over.

In fact, some counties may be forced to over-ride the property tax cap just to pay for the ever-increasing costs of Medicaid.

Consider these startling facts:

  • Nine state-mandated programs consume 90 percent of the property tax levy for county taxpayers in New York State: (Medicaid, public assistance, child welfare, preschool special education, early intervention services, indigent defense, probation, youth detention and pensions).

  • Medicaid is by far the most expensive mandate facing county governments in New York State. It will cost taxpayers $7.3 billion across New York State in 2012.

  • Removing county taxpayers from the financing of Medicaid is the single most important thing the State Legislature can do to lower property taxes in New York State.

  • Counties must pay for mandated programs before they can figure out how to pay for vital services that residents need and expect – highway and bridge repairs, recycling and solid waste management, sheriff’s road patrols, senior and veterans programs, and countless other services that affect our quality of life.

Legislation has been introduced in both houses of the New York State Legislature to freeze the local share of Medicaid and to phase in a state takeover of county Medicaid costs over an eight-year period. Our Finance and Personnel Committee supports this legislation. Oswego County’s state Senator, Sen. Patty Ritchie, has already signed on as a supporter of this bill.

The proposed state takeover of Medicaid would save more than $864,000 in 2012, and would save Oswego County taxpayers more than $26 million over the next eight years.

The timing of the proposed law, S.5889-B, and A.8644, is designed to take advantage of initiatives being considered by Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team. Because the state takeover of Medicaid would be phased in over a period of eight years, there is ample time for elected officials in Albany to make necessary changes and adjustments to the Medicaid program.

The Oswego County Legislature will discuss this issue at its Oct. 13 meeting. Relief from this Medicaid mandate will be one of the most important changes that could happen for the people in New York State. Passage of these bills will have a major impact on New York State’s ability to prosper and survive. I urge concerned citizens to contact our New York State Senate and Assembly members and Governor Cuomo and ask them to support this crucial legislation.

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