Little: Task force suggests halting new mandates

A task force commissioned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate unfunded mandates has released its preliminary report.

State Senator Betty Little belongs to the Mandate Redesign Team. She says the task force is recommending a constitutional amendment to prohibit new mandates.

Cuomo formed the mandate relief task force in January in order to examine the burden of unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts.

As part of his agenda for reforming Albany and getting New York's fiscal house in order, Cuomo has proposed a property tax cap. His proposal is popular among business leaders, but local government and school officials across the state are concerned that a tax cap without mandate relief will do more harm than good.

Little says the report, which was turned in to Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday, calls for an immediate freeze on additional unfunded mandates.

"The report says first, let's do no more harm," she said, adding that a constitutional amendment prohibiting new mandates will "give assurance" to school districts and local governments that the state will no longer pass down the "financial burden of new mandates."

Little says the report also acknowledges that the "one-size-fits-all" regulatory approach in Albany is outdated and inefficient, creating inequalities among local governments.

She adds that the State Administrative Procedure Act needs to be amended to "better allow for waivers of mandated regulations," providing alternatives for municipalities and schools.

According to Little, the state needs to be more flexible when it comes to mandates.

For example, health care officials note that some mandates apply to inner-city hospitals but become burdensome when rural health care facilities are forced to implement them.

Likewise, what applies to a city of 100,000 doesn't always make sense for a village of 7,000.

Little says flexibility is essential in responding to the state's fiscal crisis.

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