Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,C,I – Newport) hosted a town hall public meeting at the Town of Webb meeting room on Wednesday, February 16 to hear the concerns of his northern Herkimer County constituents and to explain some of the cuts being proposed to the state budget.
Assemblyman Butler said he and other members of the legislature are in agreement with new Governor Andrew Cuomo’s perception that the state has “reached a point where it’s going to need some pretty strong medicine to turn it around.”
Much of that medicine will come by way of proposed cuts to state departments, which have been requested to pare 10% from their existing budgets, Medicaid, and education.
“We’re number one (in the U.S.) in terms of per capita taxes, property taxes, and the amount of money we spend on Medicaid and education—categories where we prefer not to be number one,” Butler said.
While Butler recognizes that the proposed cuts will be unpopular with many, they are necessary to get the state back on track.
For example, Governor Cuomo has appointed a commission to come up with recommendations on how to cut $2.8 billion from the present $50 billion Medicaid budget.
“Medicaid is a huge drain on the state’s resources. We are the only state in the nation that carves it up the way we do—50% reimbursement fom the Federal Government, the state pays 25% and the local counties are charged 25%. It is the mother of all unfunded mandates,” Butler said.
Butler said the governor has also created a commission to make recommendations to cut unfunded mandates which ultimately hurt small communities by forcing them to raise taxes to meet the demands.
He said a current popular political notion is the tax cap of either 2% or the rate of inflation (currently at about 1.8%), whichever is lowest. Though Butler supports the concept, he’s not convinced it will work.
“I was told by the county administrator that the projected increase to Medicaid costs alone would account for more than 2%, so it would put the county behind the 8-ball.
And school districts, villages and towns would be facing the same kinds of problems without coorresponding mandate relief,” he said.
In short, Butler recognized that there was a whole lot of work to be done prior to the April 1 budget deadline.
From the audience, Fred Trimbach offered support to Assemblyman Butler and other state politicians who have to take a tough stand to get the state back where it belongs.
“We need you to take the lead, and as citizens we need to get together and make some sacrifices,” Trimbach said.