Local governments, businesses begin identifying most onerous mandates


Director of Communications

Local government and business leaders have begun naming state mandates that decrease local governments' flexibility while driving up their costs and taxes.

More than 100 local government and business leaders took part in "mandate reform roundtables" sponsored by the new Coalition for Mandate Reform.

The grass-roots Coalition was announced in September by The Business Council. Its goal is to involve business and government leaders in talks to identify the most burdensome mandates-and then to develop a legislative program to address them.

The first roundtables took place in November at sites in Plattsburgh and western New York. More roundtables will take place in coming months.

So far, the most frequently criticized mandates include:

  • Collective bargaining rules, such as the Taylor law, that limit local governments' ability to contain labor costs or to streamline government entities and service delivery.

    For example, local governments must honor expired union contracts, which local officials said unfairly strengthens public employee unions' bargaining power.

  • Counties' obligation to pay part of the costs of welfare and Medicaid. New York is one of a minority of states that requires counties to share these costs.

  • Public works-related mandates such as the Wicks Law, which requires local government entities to use multiple contractors on projects above a low minimum pricetag, inflating project costs. Also cited was the requirement that local government entities pay prevailing union wages on construction projects.

  • Mandates related to special education, such as the requirement that counties pay all costs for transporting special education students while other decisions about their transportation are made solely by school districts.

  • Cumbersome, outdated civil service rules that inhibit the recruiting, hiring, and promoting of top candidates.

The Council's liaison to The Coalition, credited local chambers of commerce for the success of these roundtables.

"These business leaders know how much these issues affect prosperity in their regions," she said. "We hope many more chambers around the state join this initiative."

Business groups that took part in the November roundtables include chambers of commerce of Plattsburgh, Orchard Park, West Seneca, East Aurora, Hamburg, Boston, Eastern Niagara County, Genesee County, Livingston County, Greece, the Niagara Falls Area, Northern Chautauqua County, Cheektowaga, Depew-Elma-Lancaster, and Grand Island, as well as the Buffalo/Niagara Partnership and the Niagara Business Alliance.