Ball, Wagner Face Off: Mandates, Tax Cap

Candidates addressed Medicaid, education.

Candidates with ties to Putnam County discussed a range of issues important to constituents at a recent debate.

The event—held at the Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy Association in Southeast, and co-hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce—featured hopefuls running for the Putnam County Legislature, as well as New York State Assembly and New York State Legislature. Moderator Bruce Apar of Chase Media Group read questions that audience members submitted. Each candidate had 90 seconds to respond.

Here are snippets (in the order they answered) of responses from 40th State Senate District candidates Greg Ball, the Republican incumbent, and Justin Wagner, the Democratic pick:

(Question four) We have in place now a 2-percent tax cap that took effect Jan. 1, 2012. It is supposed to alleviate the forced spending increases (state mandates) from the governor and state legislators. However the cap has not stilled the frustration and anger of Putnam County taxpayers. We are still among the counties that have the highest tax rates in the country. Please share your ideas with us and what further moves the legislature can make to reduce our onerous tax burden.

Wagner Ball
  • As a taxpayer in Westchester, certainly I know about property taxes. I pay them and certainly they're going up too fast.
  • The property tax cap is a good start, but we need mandate relief. The idea was always that the tax cap was supposed to come with mandate relief. You should ask, what are the specifics mandates we can roll back? The biggest one here in the state is our Medicaid system. There are 62 different Medicaid systems around the state. Every county administers Medicaid. That's not what county government is for. County government is for administering services, taking care of roads, police. But right now we are one of the few states in the country that has Medicaid administered on a county-by-county level ... That is the biggest mandate I would address.
  • We need to let county government and school districts do what they're designed to do, not to be running programs that the state should be handling. 
  • When we look at the property tax cap ... the savings are incredible. You're talking about tens of millions of dollars that have been saved already. When you talk about unfunded mandate relief, first you've got to give credit where credit's due. This governor, working in a bipartisan with our Republican senate, we actually have pension reform—$80 billion in savings; Medicaid takeover or Medicaid cap and billions of dollars in savings; and we have several other proposals for unfunded mandate relief. 
  • That said, not all unfunded mandates are created equally and we're going to have to take a really close look. Seventy-five percent of unfunded mandates come from special education and special programs, and we certainly don't want to peel back to the federal level to compete with Alabama in a race to the bottom. 
  • I can tell you as your senator I'm going to work hard to cut out those unfunded mandates, or properly fund them, but we have to be very careful in what we're doing because of progress we've made on education.


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