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Cuomo wants localities to share more of their costs

ALBANY – Localities in New York will be provided with new incentives to forge deals with each other to share the costs of government services under a plan unveiled Monday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The idea comes as many residents in New York State in the coming year will see the ability to deduct the full cost of their state and local tax bills, including property taxes, under the federal tax overhaul plan coming together in Washington. That will put pressure on property tax levels, Cuomo believes.

Cuomo for the past week has embarked on his annual public relations effort to grab a couple weeks’ worth of headlines by rolling out pieces of his upcoming State of the State speech on January 3. On Monday, he said his 2018 agenda will include making permanent a plan enacted earlier this year to require county executives to come together with localities to try to find savings through shared services of everything from road work to office operations.

A bit more than half of the counties actually went through the process this year and came up with a range of mostly modest savings. In Erie County, $4.5 million in potential savings were identified – if enacted – through such things as sharing the local costs of storm sewer maintenance and animal control services. Critics have said that shared services effort is weak and fails to address many of the larger costs of localities.

Cuomo said he will also propose that matching state money given to localities that do share services will continue to flow only on the continuation of the shared service panels that convene to consider cost savings. He said the plan for the state’s 2018 budget, which faces at least a $4.4 billion deficit, will include $225 million in state funding to encourage the shared services program.

Cuomo said rules will be relaxed to make it easier for localities to pool their health insurance plans for local government workers.

Cuomo, in his briefing with reporters Monday, actually spent little of his time discussing the shared services idea. Instead, he used the 40-minute telephone conference to bash GOP members of Congress as they move to enact the tax overhaul package. He said it might not be a bad idea for the state’s two Democratic senators in Washington – Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand – to push for a government shutdown later this week if the tax plan is approved. The government needs a temporary spending authorization measure to keep federal agencies operating.

Cuomo would not say if his budget plan will do anything to address the changes coming in the federal tax plan or whether the deficit will force him to freeze of even cut the most expensive part of the state budget: education aid.

With Washington about to do “a terrible thing” with the tax bill, then “sometimes a shutdown is justified,’’ Cuomo said.

In response, Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican, called Cuomo's attitude "thuggish" and added that it is "shocking that Grinch Andrew Cuomo is advocating for a shutdown of the federal government because he didn't get his way on denying New York's working families a tax cut of $100 or more in their monthly paychecks.''

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