Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fuschillo and Skelos Vote for High School Taxes

After last weeks dog and pony show rally in Farmingdale for more state aid (I will have a post about that later today), you would think that Fuschillo and the gang would want more money for Long Island schools.

Well, you would be wrong.

Last year Democratic Senator David Valesky from Oneida introduced a bill that would amend the New York State constitution to prohibit unfunded mandates. The Senate bill is S.2201 CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY proposing amendments to article 9 of the constitution, in relation to prohibiting unfunded mandates. The bill went through all the hoops but was being stalled in committee by the Republican majority until February when the Senate Democrats filed a Notice of Motion to Petition which would pull the bill out of committee and have a floor vote. The Democrats did the same thing last year and lost. Yesterday the vote was straight down party lines again with the republicans once again playing petty politics with an important piece of legislation. Instead of voting to make sure that schools are fully funded by the state for mandates forced on the districts by the State, Fuschillo, Skelos, Marcellino and Hannon voted for the status quo of high taxes. Nassau's lone Democrat in the Senate Craig Johnson was a co-sponsor of the bill.
It is a testament to the Nassau republican delegations inability to do what is right instead of what is politicially expedient. The change to the State constitution would be a step in the right direction for school aid across the state. I personally do not believe that many of the State mandate are needed to begin with but as long as they are there, they must be fully funded. The bill cannot change the fact that No Child Left Behind is a huge under-funded Federal mandate by about $955million. That is something the NY Congressional Delegation must deal with. The best thing to do is repeal NCLB because we will never see it fully funded and in my opinion it hurts students more than help.
There is no reason to vote against this bill. Unfunded mandates are a huge drain on school funds. If Skelos and his fellow republicans can shout for "Fair Share" on Saturday, they can vote to codify into law state aid for mandates.
We all know that the dog and pony show on Saturday was just a reason to attack Governor Spitzer. I don't doubt the sincerity of the parents, educators and students who showed up but I do doubt and have my doubts proven by this vote.
I spoke to Skelos after the rally and asked him why there was never a similar rally for the 12 years under Pataki. His answer was that he [Skelos] fought for and got any cuts restored. Now that really isn't an answer. So I asked him about the percentage of school aid from the State compared to the percentage of students in Nassau for the past 12 years. The number has not changed much. Skelos is proud to say that he and Fuschillo and the others have been able to keep the 13% in state aid even though Nassau has 17% of students. Under a republican governor for twelve years, Skelos has not been able to increase school aid significantly. And he is proud of that. Skelos and the gang will not do anything to reform the school aid formula because he needs it as a political hammer to beat on Governor Spitzer and the Democrats. When a bill comes along that will take away that hammer and help schools, Skelos is front and center to kill the legislation. While we push our students to excel, Skelos, Hannon and the rest of the Nassau Republican delegation celebrates mediocrity.

Here is the full text of the legislation.
Prohibits the state from imposing unfunded mandates on local govern-

This bill would make compliance with new state mandates, once determined
to be unfunded, voluntary for local governments, school districts, and
their subsidiaries.

Defines an "unfunded mandate" as any provision of law that requires
affected municipality or school district to spend more money to provide
services. Any associated increases in cost would be offset by 1) funding
to carry out the new mandates, and 2) savings associated with other
mandate relief. Such provisions of law include statutes enacted by the
Legislature, executive orders issued by the Governor, and rules or regu-
lations promulgated by any state agency, department, board, bureau,
officer, or commission.

Exceptions to the definition of an unfunded mandate are the following:

* state laws, rules or regulations required to ensure compliance with
federal law;

* laws which, in the aggregate, will cost any municipality or school
district less than $10,000 to implement;

* laws which have been requested through a home rule message or which
have otherwise been accepted by the political subdivision;

* laws which reapportion responsibilities between or among political

* executive orders arising from the Governor exercising emergency

* laws applicable to both the public and private sectors; and

* those laws in full force and effect prior to the effective date of
this amendment, including any provision that extends or reauthorizes a
Directs the Legislature to establish a Council on Local Mandates, with
seven members appointed as follows: two by the Governor, one by the
Senate Majority Leader, one by the Senate Minority Leader, one by Assem-
bly Speaker, one by the Assembly Minority Leader, and one by the State
Comptroller. One of the Governor's appointments would be a person serv-
ing as a local elected official, and the Governor would designate a
chair from among the members. The Council would be responsible for
resolving any disputes brought by local governments about whether a law
is an unfunded mandate or not. Council determinations would be subject
to judicial review.

EXISTING LAW: Current law does not provide for any review of or limi-
tations upon legislative actions regarding their fiscal impacts on local
governments or school district.

JUSTIFICATION: Unfunded mandates are program directives to local
governments that come from the state government without any financial
assistance with which to implement or administer them. These mandates
pose serious problems for local governments because they place an added
strain on local budgets and threaten other funding sources for existing
programs and services.
State-imposed unfunded mandates cripple local governments throughout the
state, driving-up the costs of living in New York State. They force
local governments to cut existing services or to raise taxes to cover
their additional costs.
This constitutional amendment will force Albany to better consider how
it passes along costs to local governments, following the example of
some other states through the country have given similar constitutional
protection to local governments.

S.3049 OF 2006

None to the state.

Takes effect immediately, after approval by two separately elected
legislatures and the voters at referendum."

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