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Cuomo budget plan includes death database

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks

New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks to the media in Old Westbury. (July 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY - Dying might get a tad more expensive in New York.

Tucked into the hundreds of pages of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed budget is this new fee: $20 for the state to launch a death certificate database.

The administration said it proposed the fee in consultation with the New York State Funeral Directors' Association.

New York is one of just seven states that don't have a system to allow death certificates to be filed electronically, the lobby group said. Funeral directors must personally deliver the documents, costing time and expenses. They called developing a new system a "top priority for over a decade."

In a statement supporting the new fee, Randy McCullough, executive director of the association, said the system will "positively transform the way licensed funeral directors perform one of the central tasks the law requires: ensuring all stakeholders fulfill the task of completing a death certificate and filing each certificate with the appropriate local registrar, all within the legally required 72 hours following a person's death."

A Cuomo administration spokesman said the fee would help modernize state record-keeping.

"The recommendation is being put forth at the encouragement of funeral directors," Budget Division spokesman Morris Peters said in an email. "It is a partnership between [the state Health Department] . . . and the funeral industry to update and modernize the administratively burdensome process of filing death records and to improve the validity of data and processing time frames."

The administration couldn't immediately say whether funeral directors would pay the fee, but then pass the costs along to the family. McCullough didn't return a call to comment.

Neither the state Senate nor Assembly has taken a position on the initiative, saying they are reviewing it as part of the entire state budget. Lawmakers are supposed to adopt a new spending plan by April 1, the start of New York's 2012-13 fiscal year.

New York and other laggard states were highlighted at a recent federal hearing in Washington, D.C. Experts said the lack of an electronic system with all 50 states participating has hindered the Social Security Administration's attempts to reduce identity theft.

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