Letter to NYS Mandate Relief Redesign Team

1,907 views

Published on

Unshackle Upstate sent a letter to Lawrence Schwartz, Chair of the Mandate Relief Redesign Team (MRRT) and senior advisor to Governor Cuomo, identifying nine recommendations that will help reduce the costly, unfunded mandates that the state imposes on local governments and school districts.

For more information, visit: www.unshackleupstate.com

Published in: News & Politics, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Letter to NYS Mandate Relief Redesign Team

  1. 1. May 12, 2011Lawrence Schwartz, ChairGovernor’s Mandate Relief Redesign TeamExecutive ChamberNYS State CapitolAlbany, NY 12224 RE: Mandate relief proposalsDear Mr. Schwartz:I write on behalf of Unshackle Upstate, a bipartisan coalition of more than 80 business and tradeorganizations representing a growing group of 70,000 companies and employing upwards of 1.5million people.We commend Governor Cuomo and his staff for your efforts in the state’s adoption of an on-timebudget that closes the estimated $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or increasing borrowing.Unshackle Upstate and our member organizations believe that this budget sends a powerfulmessage that New York is on the road to recovery.With that important first step taken, we believe that addressing unfunded mandates is anessential step towards reviving Upstate New York’s economy and creating an economicenvironment that enables private sector job creation.We ask the Mandate Relief Redesign Team to consider the recommendations described below,which are intended to provide the Governor and the Legislature with the means to address themyriad of well-meaning, but costly, unfunded mandates the state government has imposed.This package of proposals represents the first steps toward addressing New Yorks massive“unfunded mandate” problem. If they are enacted, New Yorks local governments and schooldistricts will be able to move forward on the path toward fiscal responsibility and solvency.
  2. 2. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 2We propose that the Mandate Relief Redesign Team consider the following proposals, each ofwhich will be described in greater detail: • Enact the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act; • Limit the ability of the state to impose future unfunded mandates; • Authorize local governments to “opt-out” of certain unfunded mandates; • Require all local government and school district employees and retirees to make minimum contributions to their health insurance; • Create a new defined contribution pension tier for all state and local employees; • Establish and empower the Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission; • Raise the Wicks Law threshold and make it uniform statewide; • End the state’s “project labor agreement” mandate; and • Expand Court of Claims jurisdiction to include claims against local governments.Enact the Unfunded Mandate Reform ActWe propose that the Governor advance legislation, modeled on the SAGE Commission, to providea vehicle to eliminate existing unfunded mandates.Under the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act, the Governor would be authorized to submit to theLegislature once each legislative session a plan to repeal or revise unfunded mandates, and suchplan would have to be approved or rejected by the Legislature within 30 days of its submission.Draft legislation that would achieve this is attached as Appendix A.Limit Future Unfunded MandatesWe support enactment of legislation that would make it more difficult for the state to impose newunfunded mandates on local governments and school districts.We support legislation that would: - define unfunded mandates during the legislative process (before they are acted on by the Legislature); - require a public hearing on proposed unfunded mandates so that legislators will understand the impact of their actions; and - require a 2/3 super-majority vote of both houses of the Legislature in order for the state to impose any new unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts.Similar legislation has been proposed by Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Martins(A.1592/S.3211). We note that their bill would require only a 3/5 (60%) majority vote in order for
  3. 3. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 3the Legislature to impose any new unfunded mandates. We urge that a higher threshold for newunfunded mandates be placed into law.Authorize Local Governments to “Opt-Out” of Certain Unfunded MandatesWe support enactment of legislation that would allow local governments and school districts toopt-out of the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law.Allowing local government to “opt out” of the Triborough Amendment would enable localgovernments and school districts to freeze salaries when a contract expires. Under current law,employees get step increases based on their years of service and pay increases based oneducational attainment. We believe that changing the law in this manner will give employeebargaining units a greater incentive to re-negotiate contracts.While we continue to support overall repeal of the Triborough Amendment and the Taylor Law asthose laws applies to all public employers in the state, this proposal would provide immediaterelief to those local governments and school districts that choose to opt-out of these unfundedmandates.Draft legislation that would achieve this is attached as Appendix B.Require All Local Government and School District Employees and Retirees to Make MinimumContributions to their Health InsuranceWe support legislation to establish statewide minimum health care contributions for publicemployees -- 10% for individual coverage and 25% for family coverage, as well a 25% contributionfrom covered retirees.This proposal would align public employee health care costs with those of other states and theprivate sector by requiring employees and retirees to pay the remainder of the total premium.This change could save local governments and school districts as thousands of dollars peremployee and retiree.Create a New Defined Contribution Pension Tier for all State and Local EmployeesWe support legislation such as S.4524 (Ranzenhofer) that would authorize local governments andschool districts (at local option) to offer an optional retirement program to new employees.The increasing costs related to retirement system contributions are a growing problem for localgovernments and school districts. Local government and school district officials are unable to
  4. 4. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 4effectively plan for future costs because the amount that must be contributed varies from year toyear.The city of Syracuse, for example, is facing a 40% increase in its pension costs over last year. Manyother municipalities across the state are facing similar or larger increases in their pension costs.This legislation would allow municipalities to continue to participate in the current defined benefitprogram, to offer a choice to employees of either a defined benefit program or a fully portabledefined contribution program, or to elect to offer only the defined contribution program.Establish and Empower the Health Care Quality and Cost Containment CommissionIn 2007 the Legislature created the Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission(Chapter 57 of the Laws of 2007, Part L).The Commission was put in law to conduct a comprehensive review of all currently mandatedbenefits and proposed mandates, and to provide an objective cost-benefit analysis of proposedhealth insurance benefit mandates prior to legislative action.The Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission does not appear to have met since itscreation in 2007.We urge the Governor to appoint the members of this Commission as soon as possible. Thecreation of this entity can be an important t step toward ensuring that future health caremandates be fully and appropriately considered before legislative action is taken on them, and willalso provide a forum within which existing health care mandates can be reviewed.End the “Project Labor Agreement” MandateWe support legislation such as S.4121 (Ranzenhofer) that would provide that a contractor biddingon a request for proposal (“RFP”) issued by a state or municipal entity for public work and whichoffers an optional project labor agreement (“PLA”) may submit a bid that does not include a PLA.Further, the RFP must be awarded to the contractor with the low bid regardless of whether a PLAwas included in a contractors bid proposal.Legislation of this nature would enable the State and municipalities to save millions of dollars inproject costs since an open, competitive and fair bidding process would ensure the lowest price forpublic works projects.
  5. 5. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 5Raise the Wicks Law Threshold and Make it Uniform StatewideUnshackle Upstate supports the elimination of the onerous Wicks Law mandate for all publicprojects. This mandate requires that separate specifications be prepared and separate contractsbe awarded for the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC components of public construction projectswhen the total project cost exceeds $3 million in New York City, $1 million in the downstatesuburban counties, and $500,000 in the remainder of the state.In order to provide immediate mandate reform to local governments and school districts, werecommend increasing the Wicks Law threshold to $5 million statewide until a full repeal ispossible.The Wicks Law mandate substantially drives up capital construction costs for schools and localgovernments. Increasing the “Wicks Law” threshold will enable local governments and schooldistricts throughout the state to better manage their capital construction costs.Draft legislation that would achieve this is attached as Appendix C.Expand Court of Claims Jurisdiction to Include Claims Against Local GovernmentsThis constitutional amendment would require that all tort claims against local governments andlocal government employees be brought before the Court of Claims, where tort claims against thestate are currently heard. Moving the forum for all tort claims made against local governmentsand their employees to the Court of Claims will fairly protect the rights of injured individuals whilewould providing local governments throughout the state with significant savings at no cost to theState. Legislation that would achieve this was introduced in 2005 (S2817, Little).In closing, Unshackle Upstate’s view is that it is critically important that the Governor andLegislature provide local governments and school districts with real mandate relief this legislativesession.I am available to discuss these proposals at your convenience, and look forward to the opportunityto work with you and the Mandate Relief Redesign Team to implement these solutions to providereal relief from unfunded mandates to local governments.Thank you for your attention to this important issue.Sincerely,Brian Sampson, Executive DirectorUnshackle Upstate
  6. 6. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 6 APPENDIX A AN ACT to amend the executive law and the legislative law, in relation toenacting the unfunded mandate reform act of 2011Section 1. The executive law is amended by adding a new article 5-A to read asfollows: ARTICLE 5-A UNFUNDED MANDATE REFORM ACTSection 75. Short title. 76. Duty of governor to examine agencies; legislative purpose. 77. Definitions. 78. Findings by governor; issuance of unfunded mandate reform plan. 79. Contents of unfunded mandate reform plan. 80. Effective date of unfunded mandate reform plan. 81. Programs and services that shall not be the subject of an unfunded mandate reform plan. 82. Severability. § 75. Short title. This article shall be known and may be cited as the"unfunded mandate reform act”. § 76. Duty of governor to examine unfunded mandates; legislative purpose.The governor, from time to time, shall examine those mandates imposed by thestate on local governments and school districts that the state does not provideadequate funding to support, and shall determine which changes are necessary toreduce the burden of these unfunded mandates on political subdivisions. § 77. Definitions. As used in this article, the following terms shall have thefollowing meanings: 1. "Political subdivision" means any county, city, town, village, schooldistrict or special district. 2. "Assembly" means the New York state assembly. 3. "Governor" means the governor of the state of New York. 4. "Legislature" means the legislature of the state of New York. 5. "Senate" means the New York state senate. 6. “Unfunded mandate” means any program or service requirement imposed bythe state through statute, regulation or other directive that has a directfinancial impact on any political subdivision in excess of ten thousand dollarsper year, or on two or more political subdivisions collectively or on a citywith a population of one million or more in excess of one hundred thousanddollars per year. 7. "Unfunded mandate reform plan” or "plan" shall mean the bill prepared bythe governor, and submitted to the legislature as a program bill, that containsthe terms and information regarding the repeal or revision of unfunded mandatesupon political subdivisions. § 78. Findings by governor; issuance of unfunded mandate reform plan. 1.Whenever the governor finds it to be in the public interest, he or she maysubmit to the legislature an unfunded mandate reform plan. 2. Nothing in this article shall prohibit or limit the authority of thegovernor or legislature to repeal, revise or provide funding for unfundedmandates pursuant to any other lawful process. A-1
  7. 7. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 7§ 79. Contents of unfunded mandate reform plan. 1. An unfunded mandate reformplan shall: (a) set forth as findings in such plan, a description of the nature andpurposes of the unfunded mandate reform plan, together with an explanation ofthe advantages that will result from its implementation, including theanticipated savings and costs associated with each repeal or revision of anunfunded mandate; (b) describe in detail other actions, if any, necessary implement that plan; (c) any preliminary actions which have been taken in implementing the plan;and (d) provide a projected timetable for completion of the implementationprocess. § 80. Effective date of unfunded mandate reform plan. 1. An unfunded mandatereform plan shall be voted on by each house of the legislature, withoutamendment as submitted by the governor, within thirty days after suchsubmission. The governor may submit only one such plan annually and may amendthat plan one time within such thirty day period. Both houses of the legislatureshall then have thirty days from the submission of such amendment to vote on theamended unfunded mandate reform plan. Without the consent of both houses ofthe legislature, neither a plan nor an amendment may be submitted by thegovernor after the thirtieth day of May in any year. 2. Under provisions contained in an unfunded mandate reform plan, a provisionof the plan may be effective at a time later than the date on which the planotherwise is effective. § 81. Programs and services that shall not be the subject of an unfundedmandate reform plan. 1. Notwithstanding any other provision in this section tothe contrary, the following categories of programs and services shall not beconsidered unfunded mandates: (a) those which are required to comply with federal laws or rules or to meeteligibility standards for federal entitlements, so long as such mandates are notbroader than federal eligibility standards; (b) those which are imposed on both government and non-government entities inthe same or substantially similar circumstances; (c) those which permit, establish or enable only optional programs or services; (d) those which repeal, revise, or ease an existing mandate or requirement, orwhich reapportion the costs of activities between boards of education, countiesand municipalities; (e) those which arise from a ruling by a court of competent jurisdiction; (f) those which are enacted after a public hearing, held after public noticethat unfunded mandates will be considered, for which a fiscal impact note asdefined in section 51 of this article is available at the time of the publichearing and which, in addition to complying with all other requirements withregard to the enactment of a law, are passed by a two-thirds vote of both thesenate and assembly; and (g) those which are the result of the passage of a home rule message whereby alocal government requests authority to implement the program or servicespecified in the statute, and the statute imposes costs only upon that localgovernment which requests the authority to impose the program or service. § 82. Severability. If any clause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision,section or part of this article shall be adjudged by any court of competentjurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair, orinvalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to theclause, sentence, paragraph, subdivision, section or part thereof directly A-2
  8. 8. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 8involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered. Itis hereby declared to be the intent of the legislature that this article wouldhave been enacted even if such invalid provisions had not been included in thissection. § 2. The legislative law is amended by adding a new section 54-c to read asfollows: § 54-c. Unfunded mandate reform plan. The legislature may by concurrentresolution prescribe rules for the consideration and disposition of an unfundedmandate reform plan, as defined in article five-A of the executive law. § 3. This act shall take effect immediately. A-3
  9. 9. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 9 MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATIONBILL NUMBER:SPONSOR:TITLE OF BILL: AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to enacting theunfunded mandate reform act of 2011PURPOSE:To authorize the Governor to submit to the Legislature once each legislativesession a plan to repeal or revise unfunded mandates, and to require such planto be voted on by the Legislature within 30 days of its submission.SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:Section 1 adds a news Executive Law article 5-A, entitled the Unfunded MandateReform Act.This new article authorizes the Governor to submit to the Legislature annuallyan unfunded mandate reform plan, which the Legislature must approve or rejectwithin 30 days of its submission by the Governor.New Executive Law § 75 sets forth a short title, the Unfunded Mandate ReformAct.New Executive Law § 76 states that it is the responsibility of the Governor toperiodically review unfunded mandates imposed by the state on local governmentsand school districts.New Executive Law § 77 defines key terms used in the article, including“unfunded mandate” and “unfunded mandate reform plan.”New Executive Law § 78 authorizes the Governor to submit to the Legislature anunfunded mandate reform plan, and provides that nothing in this articleprohibits or limits the authority of the governor or legislature to repeal,revise or provide funding for unfunded mandates pursuant to any other lawfulprocess.New Executive Law § 79 provides that an unfunded mandate reform plan shall setforth the Governor’s findings, a description of the unfunded mandates that he orshe proposes to repeal or revise, a projection of the anticipated costs andsavings resulting from the plan, any other pertinent information relating to theimplementation of the plan, and a projected timetable for the plan’simplementation.New Executive Law § 80 provides that the Governor may submit an unfunded mandatereform plan once each year no later than May 30th, and that such plan must bevoted on by the Legislature within 30 days. A-4
  10. 10. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 10New Executive Law § 81 provides that certain programs and services shall not beconsidered unfunded mandates for the purposes of this article. These includethose programs and services:- that are required to comply with federal laws or rules or to meet eligibilitystandards for federal entitlements, so long as such mandates are not broaderthan federal eligibility standards;- that are imposed on both government and non-government entities in the same orsubstantially similar circumstances;- which permit, establish or enable only optional programs or services;- which stem from failure to comply with previously enacted laws, or rules orregulations issued pursuant to a law;- which arise from a ruling by a court of competent jurisdiction;- which arise from an executive order of the governor exercising his or heremergency powers;- which implement provisions of the State Constitution;- which are passed by a two-thirds vote of both the senate and assembly after apublic hearing process; and- which are requested by a local government.New Executive Law § 82 is a severability provision.Section 2 adds a new Legislation Law § 54-c, which authorizes the Legislature toprescribe rules for the consideration and disposition of an unfunded mandatereform plan, as defined in Executive Law Article 5-A, by concurrent resolution.Section 3 is the effective date.JUSTIFICATIONS:Modeled on the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission that wasenacted into law as part of the 2011-12 state budget (Chapter 62 of the Laws of2011, Part E), this legislation creates a similar mechanism that would enablethe Governor to propose the repeal or revision of unfunded mandates that areimposed on local governments and school districts.Current and future state budget deficits have forced Albany to cut funding foreducation and health care, while local governments and school district facesimilar funding problems.In order to avoid property tax increases, it is critically important that theGovernor and Legislature provide local governments and school districts withreal mandate relief.This legislation provides a mechanism to enable the Governor to propose and theLegislature to consider real and substantial unfunded mandate relief to localgovernments and school districts.LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:New bill.FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: A-5
  11. 11. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 11No fiscal implications to the state.LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:This legislation could have significant local fiscal implications by enablingthe repeal or revision of unfunded mandates.EFFECTIVE DATE:Immediately upon enactment. A-6
  12. 12. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 12 APPENDIX B AN ACT to amend the civil service law, in relation to authorizing localgovernments and school district to choose not to be subject to a certain statelaw The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, doenact as follows: Section 1. The civil service law is amended by adding a new section 209-b toread as follows: § 209-b. Collective bargaining; local option. (1) The legislature hereby gives and grants to every local government andschool district the right, power and authority to opt not to be subject toparagraph (e) of subdivision 1 of section 209-a of the civil service law. (2) Any local government or school district may, by resolution duly adoptedand filed with the secretary of state and the state civil service commission,determine that such local government or school district shall not be subject toparagraph (e) of subdivision 1 of section 209-a of the civil service law. (3) Any such resolution adopted by a local government or school district maybe repealed in the same manner as it was adopted, and such repeal shall becomeeffective upon filing with the secretary of state and the state civil servicecommission. § 2. This act shall take effect immediately. B-1
  13. 13. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 13 INTRODUCERS MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORTBILL NUMBER:SPONSOR:TITLE:AN ACT to amend the civil service law, in relation to authorizing localgovernments and school district to choose not to be subject to a certain statelawPURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:To allow local governments and school districts to opt-out of the TriboroughAmendment.SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:Section 1 adds a new Civil Service Law § 209-b, which authorizes any localgovernment or school district to “opt out” of the Triborough Amendment byapproving a resolution that effect and filing it with the Secretary of state andthe State Civil Service Commission.JUSTIFICATION:The 1982 Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law prohibits a public employer fromaltering any provision of an expired labor agreement until a new agreement isreached. New York is the only state in the nation that imposes such a mandate onits local governments.This legislation authorizes local governments to choose to “opt out” of thestates Triborough Amendment.Authorizing local governments to “opt out” of the Triborough Amendment wouldenable those local governments and school districts that choose to do so tofreeze salaries when a contract expires. Under current law, employees get “stepincreases” based on their years of service and pay increases based oneducational attainment.Giving local governments and school districts will give them greater options indealing with employee bargaining units.PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:New bill.FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:None to the state. It should provide savings to local government that choose to“opt out” of the states “Triborough Amendment” by having the effect of freezingemployee salaries when a contract expires, rather than allowing “step increases”to go into effect.EFFECTIVE DATE:Immediately upon enactment. B-2
  14. 14. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 14 APPENDIX C AN ACT to amend the general municipal law, in relation increasing and makinguniform the project size over which separate contracts on public work arerequired The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, doenact as follows: § 1. Subdivision 1 of section 101 of the general municipal law, as amended bysection 1 of part MM of chapter 57 of the laws of 2008, is amended to read asfollows: 1. Except as otherwise provided in section two hundred twenty-two of the laborlaw, every officer, board or agency of a political subdivision or of anydistrict therein, charged with the duty of preparing specifications or awardingor entering into contracts for the erection, construction, reconstruction oralteration of buildings, when the entire cost of such public work shall exceed[three] five million dollars [in the counties of the Bronx, Kings, New York,Queens, and Richmond; one million five hundred thousand dollars in thecounties of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester; and five hundred thousand dollarsin all other counties within the state,] shall prepare separate specificationsfor the following three subdivisions of the work to be performed: a. Plumbing and gas fitting; b. Steam heating, hot water heating, ventilating and air conditioningapparatus; and c. Electric wiring and standard illuminating fixtures. § 2. This act shall take effect immediately. C-1
  15. 15. May 12, 2011 – Letter to Mandate Relief Redesign Team page 15 INTRODUCERS MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORTBILL NUMBER:SPONSOR:TITLE OF BILL:An act to amend the general municipal law, in relation increasing and makinguniform the project size over which separate contracts on public work arerequiredPURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:This bill amends the Wicks law to increase the threshold to $5 million for allpublic construction projects throughout the state.SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:Section 1 amends §101, subdivision 1 of the General Municipal Law by increasingand harmonizing the thresholds for public works contracts across the State.Section 2 sets an immediate effective date.JUSTIFICATION:State law currently requires that separate specifications be prepared andseparate contracts be awarded for the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC componentsof public construction projects when the total project cost exceeds $3 millionin New York City, $1 million in the downstate suburban counties, and $500,000 inthe remainder of the state.This bill would increase the threshold to $5 million statewide.The Wicks Law mandate has the effect of substantially driving up capitalconstruction costs. Increasing the “Wicks Law” threshold will enable localgovernments and school districts throughout the state to better manage theircapital construction costs.PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:This is a new bill.FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:None to the state. Should provide savings to local governments by providinggreater flexibility in options for contracting out public construction projects.EFFECTIVE DATE:Takes effect immediately upon enactment. C-2

×