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Area citizens, politicians rally at Capitol to protest costly state mandates

Addressing a rally protesting unfunded mandates held Saturday April 12 at the state Capitol, Queensbury at-large Supervisor  Mark Westcott says that such dictates are forcing local governments to abandon vital services. Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec (right) also spoke at the rally, sponsored by the Upstate Conservative Coalition.

Addressing a rally protesting unfunded mandates held Saturday April 12 at the state Capitol, Queensbury at-large Supervisor Mark Westcott says that such dictates are forcing local governments to abandon vital services. Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec (right) also spoke at the rally, sponsored by the Upstate Conservative Coalition. Photo by Thom Randall.

— The most expensive and burdensome dictates, which should be repealed, he said, were:

• The laws which restrict school boards in effective contract bargaining contracts with teachers’ unions and virtually guarantee teachers raises in perpetuity;

• Laws that guarantee top wages for workers on school construction jobs, regardless of the local labor market;

• Restrictions on purchasing of materials and equipment that artificially boost prices born by taxpayers;

• State policies that dictate excess special education procedures and rules; and

• The state’s Triborough Amendment, which guarantees teachers raises even while contracts are under protracted negotiation.

Blowers said this last dictate alone costs his school district $550 per year, and adds a burden of about $93.5 million to property tax bills annually across the state.

Rensselaer County Executive Kathleen Jimino said that unfunded mandates boost local taxes in the state so dramatically, they are 80 percent higher than the national average. She noted that in her county, money spent on the mandates spiraled 54 percent over the past five years, while local officials were forced to cut 11 percent from essential but non-mandated local services — which include paving roads, providing veterans’ medical transportation and senior meals.

Brian Telesh, a G.O.P official from Clifton Park, called for change via the voting booth.

“Throw out the politicians that aren’t voting against mandates, and keep the ones who are fighting for fiscal sanity,” he said.

Former Guilderland councilman and reformist Mark Grimm endorsed Telesh’s idea, urging citizens to recruit people untainted by politics to run for office and fight for fiscal sanity.

“New Yorkers will be dealing with unfunded mandates from now until doomsday unless we recruit the right new leaders,” he said.

Saratoga County Clerk Kathy Marchione told the protesters how citizen outcry could make a difference.

She noted that in fall 2009, when the state tried to impose a requirement that all motorists buy new license plates, 110,000 citizens signed an online petition, and the mandate was dropped.

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