Governor Paterson attempts to restrict unfunded mandates

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 3:51 pm by

The Governor Paterson is getting a lot of attention for an Executive Order he issued yesterday to restrict the development and imposition of unfunded mandates by state agencies.

Here is the core part of the order:

“No state agency shall recommend, propose, publish or submit any legislation or regulation containing a mandate without an accounting of the impact of such mandate on local governments, which shall include (a) the fiscal impacts of such mandate, (b) a cost-benefit analysis, (c) documentation of input sought and received by affected local governments, and (d) proposed sources of revenue to fund such mandate.” The order goes on to require that this ‘accounting must be transmitted to the Governor’s chief aides prior to action, except when public health and safety requires swift action.

In other words, the order does not prohibit unfunded mandates. Also, existing state law already requires some attempt by state agencies to estimate the fiscal impact of proposed regulatory mandates. But the new order would add more detailed requirements for agencies to follow.

The order goes a step further than existing law, in requiring agencies to prepare a local fiscal impact statement to accompany any legislative proposal imposing a mandate. Again, it is common practice for agencies to estimate local cost implications for these proposals, but the order prescribes more detail, including a requirement to consult with state associations, “including but not limited to” those representing counties, cities and towns, and the New York State School Boards Association.

Presumably, these requirements would apply to any new Metropolitan Transportation Authority financial rescue plan developed by the Governor’s Office or the MTA.  Plans advanced so far have included a payroll tax to be paid by employers in the MTA region, including school districts and local governments.

Significantly, the order’s requirements do not apply to mandates originating from the State Legislature.

Finally, the order requires agencies to report by December 1, 2009 on “any proposed changes to such regulations which could reduce the impact of existing mandates on local governments and generate property tax relief for New York State property taxpayers.” This wording does not seem to require agencies to reduce the impact of mandates, only to report on any proposals which might.

Governor Paterson also renewed his support for a property tax cap and mandate relief, but did not offer new mandate relief ideas yesterday.

During his last term (while I worked on his staff), Governor Mario Cuomo declared a moratorium on proposing or approving new unfunded mandates.

More recently, both the current and immediate past chairs of the Senate Education Committee (Suzi Oppenheimer and Stephen Saland, respectively) have refused to allow unfunded mandate bills to be reported from that committee.

My observation for superintendents has been that you may not have felt any impact from these past efforts, but you would have felt an impact without them – more unfunded mandates would have been imposed on schools.

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