Janis Castaldi—Republican candidate for the 38th State Senate District—said Monday in Rockland that state mandates hurt small businesses and schools.
Speaking in front of the Rockland County Courthouse in New City, Castaldi added that unfunded mandates stifle economic growth.
“It’s just not fair to put that kind of burden on the backs of schools and small businesses,” she said.
Castaldi of Ossining announced on Monday morning she was signing the Best4NY petition, which seeks to stem mandate costs. The petition "NYS Mandate Relief Now" has 1,268 signatures.
Howland Robinson, a Best4NY board member, spoke about Rockland and Westchester counties’ recent notoriety. He said the fact that the United States Census listed Westchester as the county with the highest property taxes in the nation “is a Gold Medal for failure in our view.” He referred to Rockland’s standing as having the nation’s third highest property taxes as a “Bronze Medal for failure.”
“This is the sort of thing that makes citizens wake up, take notice and try to get involved to do something about their government,” he said. “What’s the villain in all of this? The villain is mandates. Mandates (are) basically spending by the New York State Legislature passed downstream to local government and ends up as being billed out as local property taxes.”
Robinson said the three major issues related to mandate relief are property taxes, layoffs and reserve funds. He said staff is being laid off in school districts because the money is needed to meet the state mandates. He explained that reserve funds are taxes paid in previous years that have been put aside and are now being used to reduce taxes.
Castaldi said mandate costs associated with pensions and health care need to be addressed. She said she has been hearing from residents and business people that government needs to be smarter and live within its means.
Castaldi, who is challenging incumbent Democratic State Senator David Carlucci, criticized him for not standing firm on mandate relief. Castaldi and Howland characterized Carlucci as “Dr. No” for talking about mandate relief but voting against pension reform and for deciding at the last minute not to support Rockland’s request for state authorization to issue an $80 million to pay its budget deficit.
Rockland County Legislator Ed Day joined Castaldi in opposing state mandates. He said counties should not be forced by the state to provide services but have the option to decide what services they want to offer.
“There is no ability here for us to control our own destiny,” said Day, who added he already signed the petition seeking mandate relief.
Robinson said improvement at the state level will not happen immediately.
“We need to change the New York State Legislature, one senator, one assembly member at a time,” he said.
Carlucci issued the following response.
“I'm happy to see my opponent agrees with me that unfunded mandates are
bad. Instead of supporting plans that will not improve mandate costs for 30 years, I have proposed and voted for bills that will get real results right now.
“Working with Governor Cuomo, I voted for legislation that will allow for the state to take over the growth of the local share of Medicaid costs over a phased-in three year period that will save millions of dollars at the local level. In addition, I authored and passed legislation in the Senate that allows municipalities and school districts to enter into cooperative agreements with other local governments to save money on healthcare costs.
"To specifically deal with pension costs I issued a report in March, that details nearly 750 million dollars in savings by reducing over priced Wall-Street management fees. Savings that can be realized right now, not 30 years down the road."