Greene County lawmakers, mostly Republican, have been waging a battle with Democratic governors in Albany for decades. Supervisors in Columbia County, mostly Republican, have been mixing it up with Democratic administrations for a long time.
The latest battlefield is EFMAP, or Enhanced Financial Medical Assistance Percentage, funds the federal government provides to states to contribute to the Medicaid program. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, New York state has shared these funds with the counties, saving them millions of dollars in Medicaid costs.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion proposed budget, unveiled last week, would reverse that long-standing practice of sharing federal Medicaid funds with counties, a move that would shift a massive financial burden to local governments, taxpayers, renters and small business owners. It’s no surprise, then, that Greene and Columbia County officials got up on their hind legs Tuesday over the proposal.
Greene County Department of Social Services Commissioner Kira Pospesel said she was “shocked” when hearing of the change, and compared it to a heist, calling the state’s move “the biggest robbery we’ve ever seen.” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden called the maneuver the “biggest transfer of state applications to the counties in the last 25 years.”
It will mean tax increases at a time when the two counties and their municipalities are trying to restrain spending, said Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. “[The change] translates to a 5 to 8% property tax increase, which is very concerning and will severely impact homeowners,” Murell said Wednesday.
U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro, NY-19, threw down the loudest gauntlet.
“The governor’s budget proposal employs a sleight of hand trick to steal tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid funds from the balance sheets of county governments,” Molinaro said. “In essence, the governor is taking federal dollars reserved for local governments to help our most vulnerable and using them to subsidize a bloated and broken state bureaucracy. These dramatic losses in revenue will force leaders in local government to raise property taxes to sustain programs underserved communities rely on and directly threaten the most fundamental services like fire, police and emergency medical.”
The bottom line is this: With Groden and other county leaders predicting a recession, a topsy-turvy job recovery scenario and people leaving the region for less expensive locales, the governor needs to stop robbing Peter to pay Paul and continue sharing these invaluable funds with the counties.
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