When the governor and state legislative leaders consider shifting some of the state debt onto local governments by forcing them to pay a greater share of Medicaid costs, they should look beyond the actual numbers.
They should look beyond the cries from county officials about how unfair that would be.
They should look past the fact that the local governments have no authority to control Medicaid expenses and therefore no way to assist the state in reducing the spiraling costs of the program.
They need to look beyond all that and think about what that shift would mean to taxpayers and to the state’s future.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan, according to City & State New York, would have counties limit property tax growth to 2% and Medicaid spending to 3% growth annually.
Local governments that exceed the property tax cap would be required to pay for all local Medicaid spending growth from the prior year, even if they’ve stayed within the 3% Medicaid spending cap, the site reports.
Governments that stay within the property tax cap but exceed the Medicaid spending threshold would be required to pay for any growth over 3%.
When New Yorkers talk about why they leave this state more than any other state’s residents, they focus on taxes.
And the taxes that most directly effect most people, the taxes that people calculate their household budgets on, are local property taxes.
And when they consider living in New York vs. somewhere else, they look at what they’re getting for their money.
If the state shifts more of the burden of Medicaid onto local governments, those governments will be forced to cut local services to balance their budgets.
It might mean paving or repairing fewer miles of roads. (Few issues get people more riled up than potholes.)
Local governments will have less money to spend fixing sidewalks and maintaining parks. They might be forced to raise the price of trash disposal or cut back on home health care for the sick and elderly.
They might have to lay off staff, which will make dealing with government more time-consuming and frustrating. They might have to cut back on their contributions to fire, police and emergency services.
Every extra burden placed by the state on local governments has a direct impact on state residents and their overall satisfaction about living in New York.
Instead of fixing the problems that caused Medicaid costs to explode, the state wants to push the costs onto local governments to balance its budget.
That will only just add to the dissatisfaction and frustration New Yorkers already feel, and make a bigger, long-term problem even worse.