County legislators calling on Albany for county Medicaid help if tax cap is put in place
By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON -- The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators has approved a resolution calling on lawmakers in Albany to take responsibility for the county's Medicaid bill if the state Legislature wants to put a property tax cap in place.The resolution, introduced by 6th District Legislator Frederick Morrill, a Democrat from DeKalb Junction, says the amount counties are spending on Medicaid continues to rise, but counties have no say in how much or how the costs go up.
In St. Lawrence County in 2011, the resolution said, the mandated Medicaid cost to the county is $24 million, which is 55 percent of the total budgeted tax levy this year of $44 million.
The county is concerned that if a two percent property tax cap is mandated by state government, as is proposed, the county won't be able to keep up with the growing cost of Medicaid.
The resolution notes that the state cap on annual increases in county Medicaid expenses is three percent.
The resolution points out that "most states do not expect counties to financially participate at the level that New York State requires."
The resolution further notes that in New York, state government "has the ability to manage the costs of the Medicaid Program, determine eligibility, and set policy guidelines while counties have no control over the issue."
The tax cap proposal would limit the annual rise in local property taxes to no more than two percent. It is a way for state government leaders to respond to complaints from property owners and take credit for a solution. It would force county lawmakers to deal with a rising mandated expense while limiting their ability to raise tax revenue to pay for it.
The county board’s resolution says the state should keep control of the Medicaid program and take the responsibility for funding it.
The resolution has been forwarded to the state legislators representing St. Lawrence County in Albany, Republican state Senators Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, and Republican Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush and Democrat Assemblywoman Addie Russell.