To the Editor,
I wanted to make sure that an announcement made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Westchester received the attention that it truly deserves.
Last week, I had the chance to attend an event at which the governor announced he had appointed former Gov. George Pataki and former New York State Comptroller Carl McCall to head a task force made up of leading tax policy experts that will recommend $2 to $3 billion worth of tax cuts for New Yorkers.
By appointing a high profile Republican and Democrat to chair the body, the governor has shown the importance of making these decisions in a bipartisan fashion. We have seen Washington grind to a halt because of entrenched ideologues that simply refuse to put politics aside and our communities will soon feel those consequences in real, tangible ways. By taking partisanship out of the equation with this commission, it will give all involved parties the cover to make tough decisions without fearing the political consequences of enacting responsible public policy.
One of the first tough decisions this committee could help make is how to relieve the state mandates on county governments, specifically the mandated spending for Medicaid. Last year, Westchester County spent $223 million to cover the bill for Medicaid out of a total property tax levy that yielded $548 million. The real hesitation behind not doing this is the political retribution that will come for increasing spending at the state to pay for the necessary Medicaid programs.
With a spirit of bipartisan cooperation fostered by Gov. Cuomo on this issue, now is the time that we can get this done. This commission, with bipartisan credibility, can help save Westchester taxpayers at least $223 million by relieving the Medicaid mandate. That, in turn, could translate to a 41 percent tax decrease, which would make a significant difference to seniors, our public employees, young families and the rest of us who are living here.
Once Westchester County no longer has to pay those costs, our property tax levy will allow us to do more and keep taxes in check. I believe this commission, and a lesson learned from Washington on what not to do, will give Westchester residents a chance at real tax relief.
I applaud Gov. Cuomo and hope both counties and municipalities will have a voice in this process.
Rye City councilwoman and candidate for county legislator