Well, it was bound to happen. We said earlier that it was going to get ugly and it has.
(For you non-New Yorkers, this is may be a bit too inside. But for those of you who are political voyeurs, jump right in. This brawl centers around New York's requirement that its counties contribute a big part of the non-federal financial share of the country's most expensive Medicaid program. It's also about which elected officials get to raise taxes.)
Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) who is deputy majority leader of the State Senate and Owen Johnson (R-Babylon) who chairs the Senate Finance Committee have an opinion piece in today's Newsday, County execs' proposal would add to tax burden. This responds to Tom Suozzi's (the Nassau County Executive) FixAlbany political action committee and to his flogging of the Medicaid issue.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons:
First, when Suozzi (who's a Democrat) started this ruckus, he said that he would target both a Republican and a Democratic member of the County's Legislative delegation if the State failed to provide some financial relief. So he's being bi-partisan in ticking (that's the polite word) people off. Even the Speaker of the Assembly, a Democrat has taken a shot at him.
So it's interesting that it was two Republicans who wrote this piece. What was the political calculus? Did they try to get any Dems to join them? Weakening Suozzi might have been easier if the counterattack was also perceived as bi-partisan. On the other hand, there may have been partisan purpose in taking local political advantage of the substance of the issue.
The substance of the counterattack is that the tax revenues that support Medicaid at the local level come from different sources (primarily property and sales taxes) than those that come from the state level (income taxes) and that the geographic distribution of tax revenues differ by type of tax. The geographic distribution of tax burden is different for different types of taxes and differs also from the geographic distribution of Medicaid costs. So the Senators argue that relieving the property tax (county share) burden of Long Island resident will be more than offset by increasing their income tax (state share) burden and their net taxes will increase.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the total cost of the program which is staggering. While county officials have a very legitimate gripe, if the debate turns into one that is only about the local share, then we'll get into the same kind of geographic equity debate as we have in education, we'll keep on spending more and both sides will lose.