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From the Desk of Senator Craig Johnson - November 20, 2009

Johnson Announces Passage Of Legislation to Help Local Governments Reduce Costs   

Legislation that would help reduce costs for local governments passed the state Senate during last week’s extraordinary session, Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Nassau), announced.

The measure would allow municipalities to save money on health insurance, highway maintenance, staffing, procurement, and financing.

“This is good legislation that will help contain costs and ease tax-hiking unfunded mandates on municipalities,” Senator Johnson said. “It is my hope that this will be the first of several significant steps we take to help local governments reign in spending and reduce the burden to property taxpayers.”

Specifically, this measure:

Provides additional flexibility for local governments looking to form cooperative health benefit plans by reducing the number of municipalities from five to three;

Allows municipalities to develop longer-term cooperative highway service agreements, and expands those agreements to cover additional types of work, such as storm water abatement, right-of-way mowing and general landscaping;

Eliminates double recoveries of lost future earnings when an injured public employee receives a personal injury tort settlement and a long-term taxpayer funded disability salary;

Increases the purchasing thresholds for public works projects from $20,000 to $35,000 before triggering costly and resource-intensive public bidding requirements;

Creates a mechanism for municipalities to maximize bonding opportunities provided for in the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while ensuring appropriate oversight and local cost savings for New York taxpayers;

Enables the creation of multicounty boards of health that share a county health commissioner/public health director.

“These are smart-government measures that will improve efficiencies and lower local government operational costs,” said Thomas Santulli, president of the New York State Association of Counties.

The bill, which also passed the Assembly, is awaiting the governor’s signature.