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Long IslandPolitics

Mayors' group calls for mandate relief

New York State needs to offer "mandate relief" to local governments on pensions, health insurance and other mandated costs before it can seriously consider passing a property tax cap, according to a new report by the New York State Conference of Mayors.

The 20-page report, titled "You Can't Cap What You Can't Control," calls for changes in state-mandated costs, including retirement and health insurance benefits for government workers, before a cap is considered.

Without such changes, the group said Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2 percent cap on annual increases in property taxes should not be implemented.

Officials including New York State Conference of Mayors president Sam Teresi, mayor of Jamestown, discussed the report Thursday at a news conference in Garden City.

"A property tax cap will certainly fail if it is not preceded by significant mandate relief," the report said.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the governor-elect "will be working to achieve all of these reforms but the property tax cap is the cornerstone to providing relief for our citizens."

The new report says local governments face whopping health care costs for retirees that are mandated. Even when poor economic conditions mean less tax revenue, localities must honor these contracts and other mandates under state law.

"While private sector employers may avoid layoffs by freezing salaries, local government employers have no such option," the report said.

Cuomo has sparked opposition by some public employee unions with a proposal to cap property tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

Members of the mayor's conference task force who examined the mandate issue included Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri and Mayor Mary Bossart of Rockville Centre, both of whom attended the news conference.

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