OSWEGO, NY – A resolution opposing a certain portion of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget sparked a lengthy debate at Thursday’s Oswego County Legislature meeting.
According to its heading, Resolution No. 20 was “Supporting an alternative to the property tax freeze that will lead to permanent and historic property tax reductions by eliminating the cost of state mandated spending imposed on county property taxpayers.”
“There’s not one legislator that can answer a solid question about what the freeze was, what it wasn’t. The only thing we could agree on is we are against unfunded mandates, which we’ve (told Albany) for years,” Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, minority leader, said following the meeting.
If they invited him, a representative from the governor’s office would have come to Oswego for a discussion, he said.
“The bottom line is you can’t just sit there and point fingers,” he said. “What validated us was the county treasurer’s report. What we’ve been saying for the past year is fact.”
According to the report, things are as peachy as they have been saying, Kunzwiler added.
“Yet, every unmandated job they passed. That’s hypocritical. We have to lead by example,” he said.
“We are in that 11th hour, the state’s deadline to adopt a budget is April 1,” Majority Leader Terry Wilbur told the legislators. “We are trying to hammer home our message in that timeframe.”
However, Legislator Jake Mulcahey questioned the wording of the resolution.
“Unfunded mandates and tax freezes and increased tax refunds are entirely different conversations. I am curious how they ended up in the same resolution,” he said. “We’re not supporting tax freezes? We’re not supporting refunds?”
Legislator Dan Farfaglia suggested sending the resolution back to the committee level for further discussion.
Wilbur noted that wouldn’t allow the legislature to act on it until after the state’s April 1 deadline.
“Basically, what this is, is the NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) resolution. We put other (bills) in there because, you know what, every time we turn around we have to do a memorializing resolution here and one there. So why not encompass it all, we’re right in the budget period.”
The resolution puts two things together, “one we want, one we don’t,” Legislator Frank Castiglia Jr. said. “I just don’t think it’s right.”
“We talk a lot about state mandates and how costly they are to us. And that’s very true. We have costs that we can control in the county and I’d really like to urge my fellow legislators to take a very serious look at the costs that we can control,” Legislator Amy Tresidder said. “We have to be more serious about that also. We can keep sending messages to the state over and over and over again about mandates. Are they listening? I’m not sure that they are.”
Legislator Marie Schadt pointed out the resolution was “more in the form of a message.” “It has no real teeth,” she added. “We’re just sending them a message.”
Under the governor’s proposal, residents in Oswego County would receive a $16.07 rebate check for two years. A proposal being suggested by NYSAC would result in a permanent $514.08 tax cut for taxpayers.
If the NYSAC plan was adopted, “would we really be able to reduce people’s tax bills by that much? Or, would we find places to spend it?” Tresidder asked.
Legislator Jack Proud suggested rewording the resolution to say specifically it is the governor’s proposal that they are seeking alternatives to, not all tax refunds and tax breaks.
“This resolution does not oppose consolidation. It does not oppose tax rebates. It opposes Gov. Cuomo’s proposal that in Albany his colleagues didn’t agree with either,” he said. “Both the Assembly and the Senate have found ways around this. We need to send a strong message to Albany.”
The vote on the resolution went according to party lines 16 yes, 8 no and 1 absent
Voting no were members of the Independent Reform Caucus (formerly the Democratic Caucus): Farfaglia, Castiglia, Kunzwiler, Tresidder, Schadt, Mulcahey, Richard Kline and Doug Malone.