Attorney General Cuomo Announces New On-line Citizens' Guide To Help New Yorkers Cut Taxes And Reduce Waste On The Heels Of Historic Government Consolidation Legislation

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. (July 2, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo was in Buffalo today to applaud the enactment of the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act,” and demonstrate how it gives citizens and local officials the power to cut the nation’s highest local taxes by consolidating and dissolving the numerous layers of local government that exist in the State today.

The historic measure, authored by Attorney General Cuomo, overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law on June 25.

Attorney General Cuomo also announced the creation of a new interactive web site to help New Yorkers learn about and use the new law.

“This law is all about empowering taxpayers. After 75 years of studies and failed efforts at reform, communities across the state now have a powerful new tool for cutting government waste and slashing the highest local taxes in the nation,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Today, we are instituting real and lasting reform, and ushering in a new era of greater public involvement and more efficient governing across New York State. My office will also continue working to provide the resources to help New Yorkers help themselves.”

The Web site www.ag.ny.gov is a single source for information regarding the new law. The site features:

  • New interactive maps detailing the number of local governments and special districts in each county
  • Sample petitions to help citizens initiate the process
  • Two simple step-by-step instruction guides as to how the process works: one for citizens and another for local officials
  • Interactive communication features to connect citizens across the state allowing them to share ideas about reorganizing local government.

Cuomo’s “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act,” is designed to cut government waste, reduce taxes, and provide vital services in a more efficient manner. Today, there are more than 10,500 governmental entities imposing taxes and fees across New York State. This includes towns, villages, districts, and special districts such as water, sewer, and lighting districts. These numerous overlapping governments saddle residents with the nation’s highest local taxes.

Cuomo’s new comprehensive law streamlines the often Byzantine and cumbersome process of consolidating and dissolving local governmental entities, including the myriad special districts across the state. The new law does not mandate reorganization of local governments; rather, it empowers citizens, local officials, and counties to make these decisions themselves.

Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Local Governments, said, “Attorney General Cuomo’s law gives communities across New York state the power, if they choose, to initiate the once-burdensome process of consolidation. With today’s announcement, Attorney General Cuomo’s Office is making sure that citizens and local elected officials have the information at hand to bring about real change. As chair of the Assembly’s committee on local governments and member of the Lundine Commission, I am honored to have helped usher this measure into action.”

Fredonia Mayor Mike Sullivan said, “The issue of consolidation is not a partisan issue. Local elected officials need to work with citizens to bring about change to improve the way we provide services in New York. The same old way of doing business has not been working very well and the changes which the Attorney General drafted and has now succeeded in getting adopted in New York will open the door for citizens to lead their local officials toward necessary change.”

“Taxpayers are rightfully fed up with the inefficient use of their hard-earned, and harder to come by, money. Consolidation must occur throughout this state,” said Andrew J. Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “Attorney General Cuomo's leadership on this issue has brought it to the public's attention, and to the Capitol for real action. The next act of leadership must come from local government officials, who need to accept this challenge and do what's best for the people they represent.”

Lou Jean Fleron, Co-Director of the Partnership for the Public Good, said, “The premise of our organization is that in order to revitalize the Greater-Buffalo community, we do not need to start from scratch or chase silver bullets. We do need smart leadership, and Attorney General Cuomo has delivered that with this new law. It has a tremendous upside for both the business community and local taxpayers. We commend the Attorney General for coming back to Western New York to inform local citizens on how this law works, and we hope people quickly take advantage of its potential for reforming local government.”

Sandra Yeater, President of the Rotary Club of Buffalo said, “Everyone is aware that New York state businesses endure one of the highest tax burdens in the country. We need a measure that aims to reduce this stranglehold. On behalf of all our members, we thank Attorney General Cuomo for conceiving and championing this important new law, and for coming to Western New York to show us how to take advantage of it.”

As the state’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Cuomo is often tasked with advising local governments on the laws regulating them. It became clear that existing laws were filled with inconsistencies and complexities making meaningful reform virtually unattainable. The law repeals and amends these outdated laws to allow for meaningful reform of local governments throughout the state.

What follows is a chart summarizing the reforms implemented by Cuomo’s new law, as compared to those old laws which it replaces.

THE NEW N.Y. GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION AND CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT ACT

Previous Law: Contained numerous inconsistent and confusing procedures for consolidation or dissolution that vary depending on the type of local government entity involved.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act establishes uniform, simplified and streamlined consolidation and dissolution procedures.

Previous Law: Disempowered governing bodies by arbitrarily barring them from initiating consolidation or dissolution processes regarding certain kinds of local government entities.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act empowers governing bodies to initiate consolidation and dissolution processes for all covered local government entities.

Previous Law: Disempowered citizens by arbitrarily barring them from initiating consolidation or dissolution process with respect to certain kinds of local government entities.
The AG’s Reforms: With respect to all covered local government entities, the Act empowers citizens to place consolidation or dissolution on a popular ballot by collecting petition signatures from voters.

Previous Law: To the extent it contemplated the possibility of citizens petitioning to initiate consolidation or dissolution, it established a confusing and hyper-technical process that has led to litigation and/or disqualification both of signatures and of whole petitions.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act clarifies and defines the petition process and petition form for citizens to initiate consolidation or dissolution.

Previous Law: Established different signature requirements depending on the kind of local government entity involved.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act establishes a uniform signature requirement of 10% or 5,000, whichever is less, to initiate the consolidation and dissolution process. For small entities with 500 or fewer electors the petition shall contain the signatures of at least 20% of the electors.

Previous Law: Required that citizens own property to sign petitions or vote in certain consolidation and dissolution proceedings.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act strikes from the law all pecuniary or propertied qualifications for signing petitions and voting on propositions to consolidate or dissolve a local government entity.

Previous Law: Disempowered counties from exercising their constitutional authority to abolish local government entities.
The AG’s Reforms: The Act authorizes counties to abolish entire units of local government, subject to certain conditions including a county-wide referendum with special majority requirements.

 

For more information about Attorney General Cuomo’s “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act,” visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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