Members of the Sullivan County legislature are doing everything in their power to convince voters they are not to blame for Sullivan County’s devastating economic crises.
Their new idea is to inform us in our tax bills what it costs Sullivan County taxpayers in State and Federal mandates.
It is no secret the bulk of Sullivan County’s budget goes towards social service programs. If we were a more productive county with economic growth, we would be attracting a workforce that would over shadow these mandates.
Although we might be angry with the amount of people living in Sullivan County who require social services, the legislature forgets there are many truly in need.
If the legislature wants to incite taxpayers with the costs of mandates for social service programs, they should not stop there.
Why not also tell us the number of tax exempt properties in the county, and how much revenue we would be receiving if they were on the tax rolls?
Why not also disclose to us how much it costs to pay for health insurance and the mileage abuse of legislators?
Of the six legislators seeking reelection only Kathy LaBuda had the guts to vote no.
LaBuda told me, “It is unfair that we are being selective of certain groups. This is totally inappropriate. People will start picking and choosing who they like and don’t like. Doing this is an insult to our seniors, disabled, and veterans who need social services.”
LaBuda correctly pointed out that many people requiring social services such as seniors, those in nursing homes and veterans have been productive members of Sullivan County and paid taxes, and due to circumstances beyond their control they are now on Medicaid.
The State of New York is one of only two states in the nation that requires counties to send locally generated tax dollars to the State for the Medicaid programs.
Mandates are a serious problem.
In 2011, Sullivan County is will be forced to send approximately $20 million to Albany for the Medicaid program, and that is just the beginning.
Social services mandates will drive nearly $76.5 million in spending in 2011, which includes more than $33.2 million in direct funding from Sullivan County’s taxpayers.
In addition to social services, there are other state mandates the County must provide for.
There is a $4 million contribution to the Sullivan County Community College, even though the State government has continually failed to fund its statutory obligation. The costs are closer to $6 million, because we pay charge backs when a student attends a college in another County. More than three-quarters of our expenses are sent to Orange County Community College.
Nonetheless, instead of blaming our financial plight on state and federal mandates, our legislators should be telling taxpayers what they have done and are doing to solve the problem. I have not heard of one member of our legislature taking a leadership role and organizing with other counties and lobbying Albany and Washington to end these mandates.
The inclusion of mandates in tax bills is discriminatory and will only inflame people. It is also a sad attempt of legislators to blame others for their lack of job performance and leadership.