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March 22, 2005

Business leaders, county executives, farmers rally for Medicaid reform
Chanting protestors interrupt the rally at Small Business Day

Leaders of New York’s business community, county executives from around the state, and representatives of the New York Farm Bureau rallied for cost-cutting Medicaid reform March 22 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

The Business Council and the New York State Association of Counties organized the rally as part of the Council’s annual Small Business Day. The rally was interrupted by a handful of protestors who chanted slogans and interrupted speakers briefly. Later, about a dozen protestors opposed to restraining growth in Medicaid spending picketed outside the Small Business Day events.

“I hope you’re pumped. I hope you’re mad as hell at what is going on in this state,” Chemung County Executive Thomas Santulli, a leading proponent of Medicaid relief, exhorted more than 400 Small Business Day participants. Most visiting chamber executives and small business proprietors were expected to spend part of the day meeting their legislators to urge them to enact Medicaid reforms.

“I’m so sick of watching our young people leave. I’m so sick of businesses not wanting to come here and watching businesses leave. This state spends $43 billion on Medicaid. Forty states don’t have individual budgets that big,” he added.

Santulli reviewed high average property tax increases around the state in recent years, and asked: “How are we going to attract business with these large tax increases?”

Chuck Steiner, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Schenectady County, said state lawmakers must “enact policy changes with true Medicaid reforms that will give counties and taxpayers relief while preserving essential health care for poor.”

Tom Suozzi, Nassau County Executive and also an outspoken advocate of Medicaid reforms, emphasized the effect Medicaid spending has in worsening New York’s local tax burden.

“Local property taxes [in New York] are 72 percent above the national average. The next highest state is 20 percent above average,” Suozzi said.

The event was part of a continuing series of rallies in support of Medicaid cost containment that the Council, NYSAC, the New York Farm Bureau, and regional business groups have been holding at various sites across New York State in February and March.

New York’s Medicaid spending is the nation’s highest by far on a per-capita basis, more than twice the national average, and it is a key factor in keeping the state’s combined tax burden the nation’s heaviest. In recent years, skyrocketing Medicaid spending has put intense pressure on county budgets and has prompted tax increases across the state that have been several times the rate of inflation.