NFIB/NY, with Unshackle Upstate, the New York Conference of Mayors, the New York State Council of School Superintendents, and the New York State School Boards Association, called on state lawmakers in Albany to enact a package of mandate relief measures before the end of the legislative session.
The Let New York Work Coalition, which was first organized to push for mandate relief following enactment of the tax cap in 2011, again came together to remind lawmakers that they pledged to provide mandate relief to taxpayers, schools and local governments. The Coalition will be making stops in Plattsburgh, Syracuse, Rochester, Corning, Binghamton and Poughkeepsie in the coming weeks.
“Three years ago the property tax cap was enacted and the effort to reform the unsustainable cost drivers plaguing our schools and communities was thought to be underway. Unfortunately, outside of the pension reform in 2012, these unfunded state mandates remain largely untouched,” said Mike Durant, State Director for NFIB. “The property tax burden remains a major barrier to economic growth and is limiting the ability of local governments to provide the efficient high levels of service our families and children need. This unprecedented coalition once again is advancing sensible comprehensive mandate relief which will dramatically reform the fiscal climate of New York, open doors to economic growth and provide real property tax savings to New Yorkers.”
The six items in the Coalition's mandate relief package include:
- Freezing step increases when contracts expire. The state’s Triborough Amendment allows so-called “step increases” – or salary increases – for public employees to continue under an expired contract. This places a financial burden on school districts and municipalities and provides a disadvantage in collective bargaining, as they must continue to provide salary increases even with no contract in place
- Controlling construction costs. Lawmakers should enact a number of measures that would reduce the costs of public/private construction projects. These items include making permanent the use of Design Build as an alternative project delivery method, increasing the Wicks Law threshold to $10 million across the state, and enacting the Public Construction Savings Act, among other initiatives.
- Providing portable pension benefits. To help control the volatility of pension contributions made by local governments, New York should offer public employees at the state and local level a defined contribution pension option.
- Redefining Compulsory Arbitration. The statute governing binding arbitration should be amended to specifically define “ability to pay” as the ability of a public employer to pay all economic costs imposed on it by an arbitration award without requiring a reduction of municipal services or an increase in the level of real property taxes. The statute should also require the arbitration panel to deliberate in public and present its decision at a public meeting.
- Capping health insurance costs. Finally, state lawmakers should limit the employer contribution to health insurance for employees of schools and local governments to no more than 85 percent of a healthcare premium for individuals, or 75 percent for families or retirees. Moreover, if the employer contribution rates in state contracts decrease, then local contracts should follow the same reduction in the next negotiation cycle.
- Prohibiting new unfunded mandates. The state
should not impose any mandates on municipalities, school districts and
taxpayers unless it provides full funding to implement those mandates.