Federal, state officials spar over county costs

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

A Republican Congressman trying to support an effort to make the Affordable Health Care Act more attractive to New York state residents and the Democratic Governor are on opposite sides of the issue. Hanging in the balance are the tax bills of local property owners.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed says he is supporting a federal effort to prevent New York State from forcing county governments to pay for a portion of the state’s share of Medicaid. County officials say the local cost of Medicaid is a crippling mandate that cost Yates County taxpayers nearly $4.2 million or nearly 26 cents on every dollar paid in local property tax payments in 2016.

“For too long Albany has pushed its responsibility to fund Medicaid onto local county governments. This shift is responsible for the unreasonably high property taxes in our state. It is time to fix this problem so that younger people stop fleeing our state and the elderly are not unfairly burdened with these taxes,” Reed stated.

But Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo countered, saying severely cutting Medicaid would harm hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New York., “The Repeal and Replace Act would block grant money to the state in the name of local flexibility but at the same time, it would dramatically cut that funding. Over four years New York State would lose $4.6 billion and lose at least $2.4 billion a year by fiscal year 2020.”

Cuomo added, “Historically, the federal government paid 50 percent, the state paid 25 percent, and local governments – counties – paid 25 percent. The state has already absorbed much of that burden, but even so the reduction to the program from the loss of the counties’ share outside of New York City is $2.3 billion.”

Yates County’s local share of Medicaid in 2016 was 25.97 percent of the total tax levy, and 9.93 percent of all budgeted appropriations of nearly $42 million, reports Treasurer/Budget Officer Winona Flynn.

Reed says the amendment to the Affordable Health Care Act as proposed by Rep. Chris Collins and Rep. John Faso would prevent the State of New York from forcing county governments to pay for a portion the state’s share of Medicaid. Reed says some counties are dedicating nearly 70 percent of their tax dollars toward the portion of Medicaid they are forced to fund.

“The Medicaid program in New York State is the largest, most costly program in the nation. The size and scope of it are controlled entirely in Albany. So taking that burden off of the shoulders of local property tax payers will not only help to bring needed relief, it may also bring some needed attention in Albany to true reforms,” said Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello.

Cuomo adds, “It would be nice if Congressmen Collins and Faso actually tried to help their districts rather than hurt them. These health care cuts are on top of a dizzying array of cuts to real New Yorkers. The Republican budget cuts housing assistance, food stamps, heating projects, community development funds – all at the expense of the middle class and working families – while they cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. They won’t get away with it. They can’t play New Yorkers as fools and New Yorkers will remember. The bill for Congressmen Collins and Faso’s rabid conservative zealotry will be paid by Upstate New York’s hard working families, and those families will know exactly who to thank.”

Making these changes to what county governments are forced to pay for Medicaid would in effect lessen the taxes that local residents would have to pay.