SEEKING AMENDMENT — Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-22, speaks during a press conference at her office in New Hartford today in support of the Medicaid Local Share Limitation Amendment, which she said would relieve upstate New York counties from a property tax mandate passed down by the state government. Joining Tenney are Vince Bono, left, vice chairman of Herkimer County Legislature and Herkimer County lawmaker Bernard Peplinski Sr. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Tenney backs bill to cut local share of Medicaid

Published Mar 20, 2017 at 4:10pm

Congresswoman Claudia L. Tenney is throwing her support behind a plan to cut the cost of Medicaid from local governments.

Tenney held a news conference Monday morning to highlight her support for passage of an amendment to the proposed American Health Care Act that she said would provide “historic relief” from county property taxes across upstate counties. The local Medicaid share imposed on counties by states like New York would be eliminated for counties with populations of under five million people.

Enactment of the change would “put New York in tune with rest of the states,” said the congresswoman, R-22 New Hartford. Most states do not pass a portion of their Medicaid bill onto counties.

Oneida County’s Medicaid bill for this year is projected at $54.2 million, or slightly more than $1 million a week. The local cost of Medicaid consumes the equivalent of about 82 percent of the money the county collects in property taxes.

For Madison County, this year’s anticipated Medicaid bill is $10.9 million.

The American Health Care Act is the proposed Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

​Tenney said the amendment could result in a real (tax) reduction” and “not some gimmick.” She expressed optimism that the amendment will be successfully added to the bill.

“We need to start creating jobs by reducing taxes,” she said.

​The congresswoman also said counties could redirect money now spent to pay the Medicaid bill on their own priorities, such as infrastructure.

“This is a dream come true” for counties, she said.

Tenney later said the amendment is a “win” for “anyone who owns property.”

The federal representative said past efforts at the state level to eliminate the local Medicaid share have been unsuccessful. Tenney was an Assembly member prior to her election to Congress last fall.

“I’m really excited about this,” she said. “I am so excited we’re finally getting mandate relief.”

Reached through his office, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said the amendment was an “easy one” to endorse.

He said for the last 30 years county executives have been asking, “'Why can’t we be like other states?'”

Appearing with Tenney at her her district office in New Hartford were two Herkimer County officials, Board of Legislators Chairman Bernard Peplinksi Sr., R-Ilion, and and Legislator Vincent J. Bono, R-Frankfort.

“The bottom line is there are too many programs in New York state,” said Bono. “It can’t happen anymore.”

The replacement of Obamacare, as well as the proposed Medicaid amendment, has been criticized by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. On the Medicaid side, she says that removing the local share would drive up costs at the state level by $2.3 billion – meaning the state would likely have to find ways to offset that increase, including the possibility of reducing local aid.

Tenney acknowledged during her news conference the cost shift to the state, but says the state government has sufficient fiscal resources at its disposal to come up with the additional Medicaid money without seriously affecting the overall state budget.

The amendment would not take affect for three years after enactment, noted Tenney, to give states time to make plans for the cost shift.

She expects quick action on the amendment by the House Rules Committee and then its going to the full House for consideration, perhaps as soon as Thursday. Prospects for passage are uncertain.