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County reacts to early voting

MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek at a meeting of the Executive Committee on January 17 reacted to some police proposals put forward by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State Address.

In response to Cuomo’s proposal for early voting,  Potosek told the legislature that it’s hard to argue with a policy that encourages more people to vote, but he hoped that lawmakers in Albany would not allow the cost of implementing the reforms to be borne by the county. He said that implementing the early voting proposal, for instance, would come with significant costs. County officials have not yet had time to work out an estimate of these exact costs, but they could be significant. He said he hopes it will not become another unfunded mandate.

Several legislators also expressed concern that early voting and other proposed reforms could be expensive and could fall on county taxpayers.  There could be a problem if early voting comes to be in 2019, because the budget for the year is already set, and there is no money for early voting.

Critics outside the county have noted that Cuomo’s proposed budget does not include a plan to pay for early voting.  Cuomo’s communications director argued otherwise in a statement released the same day. “The budget more than covers the cost of early voting by merging state and federal primaries to save counties $25 million and eliminating the internet tax advantage to ensure collection of sales taxes, delivering $390 million to local governments.”

Potosek also noted that Cuomo’s State of the State speech did not mention any attempt at reforms of unfunded mandates, which are expenses that Albany mandates that counties must pay for, by provides no money to do so.

Another concern for Potosek was that Cuomo wants to make permanent the 2% property tax cap imposed by Albany.  Potosek noted that school districts have the option of excluding such costs, such as capital expenditures, from the tax cap. Counties, however, have no such option.  That reality caused a 4% tax increase in 2017 because that was required to pay for the state-mandated new jail, and county legislators were therefore required to override the tax cap.  Potosek said it would be beneficial for the state to grant counties some flexibility with the tax cap, especially if it is going to be made permanent, rather than being renewed every five years.

Another adjustment by the legislature in response to action in Albany concerned plastic bags.  County legislators had been considering the adoption of a ban on single-use plastic bags.  In recent days, however, Cuomo proposed a state-wide ban on the bags.  The legislature put aside its consideration of the matter until the future of the governor’s proposal becomes clear.

Also at the committee meeting Ari Mir-Pontier, the executive director of the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission, is stepping down.  She received praise from a couple of the legislators and Potosk, who said it “was a pleasure to work with her.”

She is leaving because she has accepted a position in the office of newly-elected State Sen. Jen Metzger.

In an acknowledgement that Mir-Pontier had asked more than once that her position become full time, legislator Nadia Rajsz said, “All we would have needed to do to keep you, is make the position full time.”

 

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