For years mandate relief has been little more than a political talking point or a municipal budget concern. On Thursday, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said that unless state mandates - the fixed costs New York State charges cities, town and counties - are reduced, basic services everyone uses are at risk. Miner says Syracuse's pension costs have gone up 587% in the past ten years
"You're going to see cities across the state start to not be able to clean up snow, pick up trash, fire protection, police protection," said Miner.
Lt. Governor Robert Duffy was in Syracuse on Thursday to promote a plan that would gradually transfer future Medicaid cost increases to the state. the governor also wants new employees contribute more to their pensions or use a 401k style plan. Duffy said that the state's current pension costs are unsustainable and need to be corrected for future employees.
"You can't kick this can down the road. It's been kicked down the road for so long, the people of this state are looking for leadership," said Duffy.
Duffy said that without pension relief cities and towns across New York state would run the risk of going completely broke.
Currently every dollar Onondaga County collects in property tax goes to state mandated costs. County Executive Joanie Mahoney says the governor's proposed Medicaid reform would save Onondaga County $24 million over five years and pension reform could save $1.6 billion over 30 years. Mahoney said the risk of a financial crisis is very real.
"The Lt. Governor says bankruptcy four or five years out for a city like Rochester, Onondaga County wouldn't be far behind," said Mahoney.
State Assemblyman Don Miller and Onondaga County republicans proposed having the state pick up all Medicaid costs and eliminate all county property taxes in Onondaga County. Miller and republican county legislators said the governors plan was a start but was not aggressive enough.
The reform the governor has proposed has some bi-partisan support but is already seeing opposition from the state's labor unions.