Cuomo Continues State of the State Tour
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New Yorkers could get a chance to vote on shrinking their local governments, under a proposal announced Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a Westchester County stop during his state of the state tour.
Cuomo's idea would require officials in each county to develop plans to save tax money by better coordinating municipal services. Lawmakers would then consider the plan. But if they do nothing, the proposal would go before voters in November.
Cuomo said many local governments could save money by sharing specialized equipment, such as bulldozers, or pooling department services, such as human resources.
"Not everybody needs to buy a new road tractor every two years - we can share," he told the audience. "Not everyone has to have their own HR department. We can all cooperate."
The proposal was the latest to emerge from Cuomo's state of the state tour.
Governors typically deliver a single state of the state address to lawmakers in Albany but, this year, Cuomo scheduled six speeches around the state. The final two are planned for Wednesday in Syracuse and Albany. Tuesday's stops were in Westchester and on Long Island.
Cuomo's proposal on coordinating local services drew immediate criticism from some county officials.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who ran against Cuomo in the 2014 governor's race, said almost half of the taxes collected by his county go to pay for state-mandated expenses - and not wasteful local spending.
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro said Cuomo is trying to "pass the buck" on taxes. Molinaro said his county has already done much to make services more efficient.
"Thanks for the lecture, governor," he said in a statement emailed to reporters. "Let us know when you are ready to get to work ... real property tax relief starts with mandate relief and that starts with the governor."
On Long Island Cuomo praised plans for a 90 megawatt offshore wind farm and said the state should commit to developing up to 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. Cuomo maintains that wind farms can be built so they wouldn't be visible from shore.
Cuomo said the details of the commitment would be included in a wind energy master plan, expected to be completed later this year.
Wind energy advocates cheered the goal. Liz Gordon, executive director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance said the commitment "makes New York a national leader of this new clean energy industry."