Thursday, June 04, 2009

State Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Special District Consolidation Bill, 46-16

Long Island Delegation, But For Two, Votes Against Measure

Long Island alone has some 340 special taxing jurisdictions (Newsday's count. We actually count many more, but outside of the flickering Lighting District, who can see straight?).

All but two NYS Senators representing Long Island, John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Brian Foley (D- Blue Point) had the gumption to vote for the measure that, once signed by Governor Paterson, could open the door to dismantling costly, wasteful, and often redundant local government -- from Sanitary Districts to, in some instances, entire towns. [Now wouldn't that be nice?]

The balance of Long Island's Senators, including Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), clung to the rafters of the sinking ship of fuedalism, rationalizing the irrationality of special district fiefdoms. Either consolidation won't save enough money (some is better than none, and just the rush one would get from eliminating a sanitary or water district here or there would be well worth it), or we can't bare to live without some of the nearly 10,000 taxing entities that now pick our pockets in New York State.

For the bill:
John Flanagan (R-East Northport)
Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point)

Against the bill:
Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick)
Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City)
Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington)
Owen Johnson (R-West Babylon)
Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson)
Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset)
Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre)

Could it be that these folks fear what may happen if they actually empower the people?

Fortunately, the vast majority of Senators west and north of Long Island, had the sense, the foresight, and the courage to vote in favor of a measure that, while far from perfect, has the potential to pare down this "crazy quilt" (as Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi calls it) of patronage mills, most existing chiefly for the benefit of the poltically entrenched, and not the taxpayer/homeowner, who foots the hefty tab to fund the likes of far too many sewer districts, parking districts, fire hydrant districts, and elevator districts.

In the beginning, government was created to serve the needs of the people. Then, government created too much government. Over the years, what began life as a harmless, single cell, has evolved into a massive blob of semigelatinous waste, threatening to consume every last greenback. With the consolidation bill soon to be law, New Yorkers will finally have the chance to take back their government, trim it down to size, and, with any luck, save a few bucks in the process.

Now that's about as local as local control gets!

Kudos to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for providing the genesis of the consolidation measure, and to all the members of the NYS Legislature who, through their affirmative votes, demonstrated their commitment to to the taxpayers of the Empire State.

As for those who voted "No," surely this can't be characterized as a vote of conscience. Special Districts have bedeviled New Yorkers for as long as any of us can remember. Face it, you sided with the devil.

We sent you to Albany to represent our will, not that of water associations or other special interest groups who would exert their own selfish agenda over the good of the people you were elected to serve.

Residents will soon have the opportunity to exorcise that special district devil. So, too, will they have the power to vote those who do not do the people's bidding out of office.

Ahh. Government consolidation at its best!
Okay, where do we get a Petition to dissolve the Town of Hempstead in its entirety. How many signatures did you say we need?
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From The New York Times:

Senate Passes Bill to Ease Government Consolidation

ALBANY — The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would make it easier to cut or consolidate layers of local government in New York, a measure that supporters hailed as a significant step toward relieving tax burdens across the state.

The bill, drafted by the New York State attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, simplifies what is now a byzantine set of laws specifying how voters or government officials can choose to dissolve or merge towns, villages and the hundreds of special districts that provide water, sewage treatment and other services throughout the state.

Senate passage of the bill — which was approved by the Assembly on Monday — was also a political victory for Mr. Cuomo, who by proposing legislation in May and persuading lawmakers to approve it in a matter of weeks, overshadowed Gov. David A. Paterson, who embraced a related proposal last year but did little to advance it at the time.

At a news conference on Wednesday morning, Mr. Paterson, who is expected to sign the bill despite the tension with Mr. Cuomo, described the legislation as a collaboration between him and the attorney general.

“The attorney general has taken this issue and worked with it wonderfully and come up with some great proposals, working with our office and independent of our office,” Mr. Paterson said.

All told, there are more than 10,000 taxing entities in the state, ranging from special districts that provide volunteer fire departments to those responsible for disposing of duck waste or maintaining fallout shelters. Special districts are especially plentiful on Long Island, where they generate half the special district tax revenue in the state. Many districts are considered by critics to be little more than patronage mills.

The proposal Mr. Paterson supported, devised in 2008 by a commission appointed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, laid out what was in effect a detailed, sweeping consolidation plan for local government across the state.

Mr. Cuomo’s legislation, by contrast, does not require any consolidation, but creates a simple, uniform process by which voters or officials can do so on their own.

Under the bill, petitions to put a consolidation proposal on the ballot would in most cases require signatures from only 10 percent of registered voters in a given jurisdiction, like a village or a water district. The bill would also eliminate rules that allow signatures only from residents who own real property, requirements that supporters of the bill have likened to a modern poll tax.

The legislation would allow county governments to abolish entire units of local government with majority support from residents who would be affected, a significant feature in upstate regions where severe population loss has left behind skeletons of virtually defunct government entities.

“New York is now at an historic crossroads decades in the making,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “I look forward to this bill finally giving New York’s overburdened taxpayers the ability, where appropriate, to streamline their governments and cut their property taxes.”

Special districts have proliferated since World War II, when rapid suburbanization quickly outstripped the ability of existing local governments to provide essential services. In Erie County alone, for example, there are currently 3 cities — including Buffalo — 25 towns, 15 villages, 32 fire districts and 939 special districts.

Proponents of consolidation say that those many layers of government are a major reason New Yorkers have the highest local tax burden in the country, helping drive people and businesses out of the state in recent decades. Mr. Spitzer’s commission estimated that taxpayers could save $1 billion a year with changes like consolidating local tax collection and creating a single, state-run jail system.

But many local officials argue that special districts can provide more efficient and accountable services to taxpayers. In Wednesday’s Senate debate, opponents argued that consolidation could lead to longer response times for firefighters and less regular pickup of garbage.

“Response time, as everybody knows, is life and death,” said Carl L. Marcellino, a Long Island Republican. “No amount of consolidation is worth putting someone’s life at risk.”

Ultimately, however, the bill passed overwhelmingly, by a vote of 46 to 16. One Democrat, Craig M. Johnson of Nassau County, voted against the legislation, along with 15 Republicans, according to an unofficial tally.

Reflecting rules changes instituted by Senate Democrats this year, the legislation is the first in recent memory to have a member of the minority party as a prime sponsor. The Senate consolidation bill was co-sponsored by Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester Democrat, and Elizabeth O’C. Little, an upstate Republican.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
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From the Editorial page of Newsday:

The people won in Albany with passage of consolidation bill

Taxpayers, rise. You had a big victory last night in Albany. The State Senate approved legislation, already passed by the Assembly, that streamlines the process for eliminating those layers of local governments, barnacled with patronage, that may no longer be worth the cost.

This effort to reduce the size of government started in 1935 but was finally driven home by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act survived a blistering fight to weaken or kill it with Republican-sponsored amendments. In the end, special interests desperate to keep unwanted special districts were trumped by Cuomo's persistence and popularity.

Too bad Long Island's delegation, which represents 340 of these districts, couldn't unite in support of the measure. Only Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Brian Foley (D- Blue Point) had the courage to vote for it. Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), in a pitiful effort to justify his support for continuing patronage, essentially argued that his constituents couldn't be trusted to decide what was in their best interest. And, by their no vote, so did six of the Island's GOP senators.

This potentially powerful reform movement can't begin, however, until Gov. David A. Paterson signs the reorganization act. Paterson was an initial crusader for consolidation and an unequivocal supporter of Cuomo's bill until it ran into headwinds. We trust Paterson will trust the wisdom of the people.

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

1 comment:

  1. CONSOLIDATION CONSOLIDATION CONSOLIDATION How many times have we heard this before???

    HMMMM - The Attorney General came up with this idea all by himself?

    Let's see how's about Harvey Levinson, wasn't he the one screaming from the rooftops about consolidating school districts as well as special district?

    Where is he NOW? That's right he got his 60% Patronage raise from Tom Suozzi and retired.

    Talk about wasteful spending 60% raises for the NC Patronage jobs

    How much was that waste treatment plant in Glen Cove $30 Million

    It's really sad when Politicians get in bed with each other for Political gains - Not for rthe Taxpayers - Right Mr. Suozzi or should I say next Lieut.Governor or State Attorney General Suozzi?

    I wholeheartedly agree that consolidation is neccesary in ALL aspects not just Special Districts - Lessening the size of government is a good thing.

    And to pass a Bill just to get it passed without the proper language or to get it RIGHT is just plain STUPID!

    Anyone watch the NYS Senate session yesterday?

    I did and if your going to Sponsor a Bill - Senator Cousins have the facts so when asked a question you don't saying UMM UMM until the answer is whispered in your ear!!!

    Every Senator that asked you questions got the same response UMM UMM until your assistant explained the question to you and told you how to reply!!

    Your a NYS Senator and you looked like an IDIOT!!!