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Group wants Gov. Cuomo to cut mandates

ALBANY -- An unusual mix of business, school, farm and taxpayer groups has tried to remind Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators to fulfill campaign promises to cut "unfunded mandates" that drive up cost for schools and local governments across New York state.

Despite the diversity of Let NY Work and what a member said was a request by Cuomo for new ideas, the organization received a luke-warm response Tuesday. The group seeks to reduce state costs of mandates from Albany, many of which benefit powerful political partners in labor.

Cuomo said Tuesday that he understands local governments see state government's mandates as "onerous."

"I think mandate relief is a work in progress," Cuomo said. "We made progress on the mandate reliefs this past session, some would say not enough. We'll do it again."

It wasn't as aggressive a plan as Cuomo outlined in his campaign last year, when he pushed for a 2-percent cap on the growth of property taxes that would be followed by mandate relief to help schools and local governments live under it. The tax cap passed, but there has been little mandate relief so far.

Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, said Tuesday was still a good start.

"The administration has to figure out where they are going to be in mandate relief," Sampson said in an interview Tuesday night. "We still have a lot of time before the legislative session gets going."

He said the result of mandate relief, much of it opposed by politically powerful unions, will be a "a government that is smaller, more nimble and less costly providing the services we've all come to expect."

The goals of Let NY Work include:

Offer two retirement options to new government employees, each cheaper than the traditional pensions that are driving employer contributions by schools and local government.

Add factors that include a local government's ability to pay in a labor contract arbitration and making the process more transparent.

Eliminate some state provisions in public construction that drive up the cost by assuring more union work.

Freeze "step increases" that continue for many public employees even if their labor contract expires. Employers argue the step increases guarantee raises for teachers and others reduce the incentive to settle on an affordable contract.

Require all public employees to pay at least a minimum health insurance cost.

Let NY Work includes the state Business Council, the Farm Bureau, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the New York Conference of Municipal Officials, the state School Boards Association, the New York State Association of Realtors and the Council of School Superintendents.

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