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EffectiveNY’s Sullivan calls for elimination of $8.4 billion Medicaid burden on counties

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Oswego’s former mayor and upstate director of the EffectiveNY research organization blasted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s tax relief proposal on Wednesday and called for eliminating the $8.4 billion Medicaid burden on county governments.

“The governor touts this as a great incentive,” John T. Sullivan Jr. said Wednesday afternoon. “But he’s mixing apples with oranges and coming up with bananas.”

Under Gov. Cuomo’s “tax freeze” proposal, the average property tax rebate to homeowners in Oswego County would be only about $16, and even that amount is subject to federal taxation, Mr. Sullivan said.

In essence, the governor’s nearly $2 billion program aims to pressure local governments to consolidate by offering up to 2 percent rebates on residential property taxes for homeowners in taxing districts that keep their levy increases within the state’s “tax cap.” School districts, county, town and village governments also would be required to develop a plan to deliver joint savings in the following year.

Mr. Sullivan met with Oswego County leaders Tuesday and Jefferson County officials Wednesday to win support for a full state takeover of Medicaid costs, which the nonprofit group believes would lower property taxes for everyone — not just residential property owners.

The nonprofit group wants the state to pay for the program through state income taxes rather than forcing county governments and New York City to foot half of the program’s cost through property taxes.

“New York state is the only state that does this,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We want to right that wrong. We’ve got to have one entity in charge of Medicaid.”

Jefferson County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said the move would save the county government $19 million annually, leading to an immediate 30 percent drop in the county’s tax rate.

It is unlikely that any drastic changes to Medicaid would be made for the 2014-15 fiscal year. But EffectiveNY plans to draft a resolution for county governments to consider by May, and hopes that the state would take over Medicaid starting in the 2015-16 fiscal year, Mr. Sullivan said.

Mr. Sullivan will meet officials in Onondaga County today.

The Saratoga Springs resident formerly served as deputy Medicaid inspector general, assistant state attorney general in Watertown and co-chairman of the state Democratic Party.

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