Elaine Phillips pans Cuomo’s local government initiative

Elaine Phillips pans Cuomo’s local government initiative
State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) addresses the Mineola Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Feb. 21. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

State Sen. Elaine Phillips on Tuesday criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed incentives for local governments to share services, calling it a “horrendous” approach to reducing local tax burdens.

While she praised the idea of making local municipalities more efficient, the Flower Hill Republican said the Democratic governor does not need to threaten their state funding for them to do so.

“I don’t need his heavy hand to come down … and tell us how to run our business,” Phillips said at Tuesday’s Mineola Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Cuomo’s 2017-18 state budget includes a mandate for all counties outside New York City to develop plans for sharing services among cities, towns, villages and special districts to create recurring savings and reduce local property taxes.

The county executive would develop the plan and submit it to voters for approval in a November referendum.

Cuomo’s draft budget legislation requires the state Legislature to approve the proposal for local municipalities to get their share of some $715 million in aid from the state, as reported by Westchester County’s Journal News.

Phillips, a former Village of Flower Hill mayor and officer in the Nassau County Village Officials Association, said she objects to the idea of the county telling local officials how to run their governments when many already share services.

“We as government elected officials should be doing this as our normal course of business,” Phillips said.

Villages are often more efficient and cheaper to live in than towns or other larger municipalities, Phillips said.

The Town of North Hempstead gets a little more than $1 million in state funding in the current state budget. The North Shore’s 27 villages get nearly $1.4 million.

Cuomo has promoted his proposal as a way to give voters control over reducing their annual tax bills and how their local governments operate.

In a speech in Plattsburgh in January, he said local officials have an obligation to make their governments as efficient as possible.

“By challenging local governments to create a plan to streamline government bureaucracy for voter approval, this innovative and powerful initiative will empower communities and lead to real, recurring property tax savings,” Cuomo said in a statement last month.

The initiative is Cuomo’s latest effort to encourage consolidation of local governments.

He signed the state’s cap on property tax increases in 2012, an effort to stanch spending growth by school districts and other local municipalities.

Last year he launched a “Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition” through the New York State Department, offering a $20 million reward to local governments that come up with the most “innovative” consolidation or cost-sharing proposal.

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