ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned this week that New Yorkers will be slapped with billions of dollars in new taxes if Congress adopts a replacement to Obamacare that would shift some costs now borne by county governments to the state.

The Democratic governor, in an open letter to New York's congressional delegation, argued that every resident of the state would have to shoulder what he branded the "Collins-Faso federal tax" if the state is forced to pick up Medicaid costs now paid for by county taxpayers.

Cuomo's name for the "tax" was a direct jab at Congressman John Faso (R-Columbia County) and Congressman Chris Collins (R-Erie County), the authors of an amendment to House legislation that also found its way into a bill backed by the Senate GOP.

The governor branded the Faso-Collins proposal a "political Ponzi scheme."



As for the overall health-care plan that emerged from the U.S. Senate last week, Cuomo said: "The dangerous bill strips millions of New Yorkers of their health care in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich. It attacks the rights of women, and it endangers care for many of the most vulnerable among us."

One immediate political problem for Cuomo is that the Faso-Collins amendment is strongly supported by the New York State Association of Counties, the umbrella group for the state's county governments.

That organization argues that Medicaid costs are among the biggest state-mandated programs that have been delegated to county governments by New York.

If the approach favored by Faso and Collins is kept in final legislation, the state should be able come up with the additional $2.3 billion in statewide spending, as it amounts to about 1.5 percent of New York's operating budget, said William Cherry, the Association of Counties president and Schoharie County's treasurer.

"The federal money would still be available to the state if the state pays its own Medicaid bill," said Cherry.



Property taxes have been climbing for years across upstate, leaving the region's economy sluggish, he said. 

"This would be a great start in helping people to continue to live here," as a state takeover of Medicaid spending would lead to local property-tax relief.

Cuomo, elected to his first term as governor in 2010, is expected to clarify later this year whether he will seek a third term in Albany next year. 

His name has been mentioned as a potential White House candidate in 2020.

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox said Cuomo's criticism of the Faso and Collins proposal suggests the governor is "auditioning to become a hero to the liberal left."

Cuomo, in a second announcement related to the Senate health-care legislation, took a partisan swipe at what he called "the heartless Senate Republican bill for including a provision that could chop federal aid to combat the epidemic of opioid deaths."

The governor noted that more than 2,300 people in New York died of opioid overdoses in 2015 — surpassing the number of lives lost in motor-vehicle crashes that year.


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