YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Nearly two dozen leaders across four counties gathered Thursday at Yorktown Town Hall to champion for unfunded mandate relief, a cause they say has fallen mostly on deaf ears in previous years.
Elected officials including State Sen. Greg Ball chose to “beat the drum” once more because he said he believes in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ability to listen to his constituents. Cuomo’s approval rating suffered a 15-point drop after signing a new gun control bill, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, and Ball said he can regain support by focusing on issues that benefit all taxpayers
“I happen to know the governor watches his polling very closely," Ball said. "We need this governor to get away from the social issues, get away from the issues that divide us and focus on the biggest bipartisan issue this state has ever seen. These are the bread and butter issues we elected this governor to deal with."
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said mandate relief is not a "sexy issue" but urged Cuomo to take action.
“It seems to me that most people are against waterboarding and yet we’re getting waterboarded by Albany in unfunded mandates," said Astorino, who estimated nine state mandates alone consume 85 percent of Westchester's property tax levy. "We feel like we’re drowning and we are going to drown in a real short period of time unless something in a real way is done, and soon."
Ball and Astorino were joined by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Dutchess County Comptroller Jim Coughlan, Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy, Yorktown Council Member Nick Bianco, Yorktown Council Member Terrence Murphy, Town of Cortlandt Comptroller Glenn Cestaro and Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, who offered a local perspective on the difficulties unfunded mandates present.
Grace said Yorktown is especially hurt by prevailing wage laws, which he said drive up the price of construction jobs and other outside contracts. He estimated a new firehouse would have cost between $600,000 and $700,000 if it was done by a local company, but prevailing wage laws doubled the price.
"So you know what happened? The firehouse isn’t being built, the guys that would have built the firehouse aren’t being employed, the town suffers because we don’t get the services and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s nuts," Grace said. "It’s time to stop pussyfooting around about this stuff and be bold, put everything on the table and start moving this state ahead because you’re killing us."