ALBANY Unfunded state mandates are forcing local government services to be eliminated and are prompting people and jobs to move out of state, area politicians said at a rally held Saturday April 21 at the state Capitol.
Nearly 100 people — including a dozen or so from Warren County — gathered on the Capitol steps to protest the burden of unfunded mandates that the state has imposed on its local municipalities.
Two Queensbury supervisors, Dan Stec and Mark Westcott — who have campaigned extensively on the issue — were among the featured speakers at the rally. Westcott is an at-large supervisor from Queensbury, and Stec is head of the town government, as well as chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Noting that state dictates are responsible for 90 percent of the county’s tax levy, Stec implored the protesters to lobby their legislators to outlaw or restrict unfunded mandates, as 27 other states have.
Stec compared unfunded mandates to a frustrating hiking expedition — that local governments were being commanded to move faster, as more rocks were being put into their backpacks.
“These mandates are killing the property taxpayers and the business climate,” Stec said. “Let’s pull these rocks out of our packs and leave them on the trail,” he said.
Westcott said that with the tax cap, the ever-increasing mandates were forcing local governments — under the new 2 percent tax cap — to slash vital services.
“Unfunded mandates are growing at an unsustainable rate, and they are choking out local community programs,” he said.
Town of Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth noted that unfunded mandates passed down to Saratoga County cost the local taxpayers $61 million annually.
“If the state paid for their own mandates, there would be no property tax at all in Saratoga County,” she said.
It’s not only local governments that are being burdened, said John Blowers, a member of the Ballston Lake-Burnt Hills school board. He noted that by merely repealing a few key laws, school districts would have have millions of dollars more annually to spend on providing a quality education.