With every step of his 459-mile journey, Tom Cavanagh hopes his footprints leave a message about the impact of unfunded mandates.
Cavanagh is walking New York state to raise awareness of the need for mandate reform.
In an online post, he says, "Unfunded mandates are restricted or illegal in 27 states. Why are they legal in New York? They are bankrupting our communities, our counties, towns and cities, not to mention the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill. Every single New Yorker is affected by the burden of unfunded mandates, and it needs to stop."
STARTED IN CHAMPLAIN
Cavanagh, a member of the Upstate Conservative Coalition, initiated his journey in Champlain to coincide with "Tax Day," April 15.
He plans to conclude the 18-day adventure at the Montauk Point Lighthouse on Long Island on May 2.
On the way, he intends to stop in Albany on Saturday to participate in the Stop Unfunded Mandates Now Rally on the steps of the Capitol Building.
Cavanagh feels strongly about the impact that unfunded mandates are having on the state's citizens.
"High taxes are driving residents and businesses out of New York, and those who are left behind face stressful situations as they prioritize their spending decisions," he said.
As he traverses his north-to-south route, Cavanagh has been promoting his cause to anyone who will listen. Stopping at the Elizabethtown Town Hall, he met with Supervisor Margaret Bartley.
"At the county level, we talk about unfunded mandates a lot," she said.
"You get a double bam from school taxes and county," Cavanagh said. "What bothers me the most is how it hits the seniors. They have to decide, 'Do I eat and pay for my meds, or do I pay my taxes?' The county taxes keep going up due to unfunded mandates. There's no escape."
Bartley told how Elizabethtown had to put up additional money after the state promised to pay $5 toward each property assessment and then reneged.
"With 1,000 assessments, that will cost us $5,000 more than we anticipated, and this was not put on the (town) budget," she said.
Another unfunded mandate cited by Bartley is the placement of a series of arrows on roads to denote curves.
"The state fails to realize that virtually every road in the Adirondacks is curvy. What applies in Long Island does not apply here."
"We need to educate the people," Cavanagh said. "I think this thing will spiral as we travel and tell people along the way."
Carl Gottstein Jr. has been accompanying Cavanagh, driving a vehicle and videotaping the journey. Gottstein told how Cavanagh's home was flooded by Irene.
"It was not insured, but he didn't ask for help. He just went about his tasks. We both became unemployed, so we decided to do something about unmandated taxation, rather than to wait for something to happen.
"We (the government) have the money to provide for good educations but have screwy mandates. This movement is not political, not Democrat or Republican. It's a universal issue," Gottstein said.
"We could better be served if money is not wasted. Those closest can make the best decisions."
IN TOUGH SPOT
Cavanagh, an EMT for 22 years in the Village of Stamford in Delaware County, said the situation faced by schools is not the school boards' fault.
"I have traveled about 40,000 miles during the last three months, talking to school boards along the way," he said.
Gottstein hopes Cavanagh is successful.
"If Tom accomplishes his goal, everybody wins. I hope people along the way will support us and even walk with us for a way."
As he headed down the road after a brief lunch, Cavanagh stuffed a half-dozen chocolate-chip cookies into his mouth for additional energy.
"He really burns up the calories," Gottstein said.
Email Alvin Reiner at: email@example.com
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