One thought on “(English) Albany’s Addiction to Unfunded Mandates

  1. Dear Larry,

    I have just come across your website and I find it very interesting because of your concern over unfunded mandates here in New York State.

    You may be aware that last October Governor Cuomo signed into law the “New York State Gap Coverage Cancer Legislation,” an insurance benefit to volunteer firefighters who believe they have contracted cancer as a result of their firefighting activities (no demonstration of actual cause-and-effect is needed). The law was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of the state legislature. The idea apparently originated with and was heavily promoted by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY), a lobbying organization. It takes effect January 1, 2019.

    Two questions I have, as a retired volunteer department treasurer, are: 1) how much will this cost? and 2) who pays for it? Simply put, here are the answers: 1) Nobody knows. 2) The volunteer fire departments of New York State.

    Although many volunteer departments in the state are corporations rather than municipal entities, they generally rely heavily on funding from municipalities and therefore I believe this legislation clearly falls under the the general definition of an unfunded mandate.

    Interestingly, FASNY has published a Q&A on its website in which they say that in the initial development of this law they went to existing insurers who already provide statutorily required workers compensation coverage to volunteer departments, many of which are self-insured counties. FASNY admits that the counties rejected the proposal, stating that the excessive cost of the proposed program would force them to drop workers compensation altogether. FASNY goes on to say “Thus, the New York State Assembly and Senate worked with the fire service and the localities to craft a bill which would provide extensive coverage but meet the threshold cost needs of the localities.” One may wonder what “worked with the fire service” means — we didn’t hear anything about it. And one may wonder what localities they worked with — they did not include ours. And finally, one may wonder what those “threshold cost needs” are, especially when all FASNY could say about the cost of the program is this: “A similar bill was passed in Georgia and the cost estimates of that bill are $300 per firefighter for the required benefits.” Note, there are no facts here, just someone’s estimate from a very different state. And remember, the self-insured counties in New York, when presented with the idea, rejected it out of hand because they perceived it to be prohibitively expensive.

    It is hard for me to believe that FASNY, our legislature, and our governor could be so irresponsible to endorse this Gap Coverage Act without knowing what the cost would be, and worse, dumping that cost, whatever it turns out to be, on volunteer fire departments. This is an unfunded mandate, to be sure, and it will probably be a duesy.

    Larry, I am writing to you to ask your advice — how can we deal with this?

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