One North Country lawmaker is seeing her influence grow quickly with the new Republican majority in the state Senate and the new face at the Governor's Mansion.
Last week, state Senator Betty Little was appointed to the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversees nearly every piece of legislation in Albany.
On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Little will serve on his Mandate Relief Redesign Team, established recently by an executive order. Then, on Tuesday, Little announced she will chair the Senate committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation.
According to a statement issued by Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, the Mandate Relief Redesign Team is charged with reviewing existing unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed by the state on school districts, local governments, and other taxing entities.
Vlasto says most mandates require local government to provide a program, project or service on behalf of the state. Cuomo says unfunded mandates are - quote - "breaking the backs of taxpayers, counties and municipalities across the state."
"These mandates are throwing budgets out of balance and sending local property taxes through the roof," he said in a prepared statement.
Cuomo's mandate relief team includes stakeholders from private industry, education, labor, and government who will look for ways to reduce the costs of mandate programs, as well as identify mandates that are ineffective or outdated.
Little says unfunded mandates push the financial burden of the state down to the town and village level - where budgets are already tight enough.
That, she says, puts the state's fiscal responsibility squarely on the shoulders of local property taxpayers.
"We're talking about years and years of mandates, many well-intentioned, but collectively extremely costly," she said.
Little's state Senate district hosts 88 towns, two cities, and 53 school districts.
"I hear a lot about these mandates," she said. "I'm hopeful that given the diverse and inclusive nature of this team assembled by Governor Cuomo, and the impetus of the fiscal crisis, we will achieve some real results."
Local governments, like the village of Saranac Lake, have called on Cuomo to include mandate relief in any discussion of a property tax cap.
Cuomo's office says the mandate relief team will submit a set of recommendations to the governor by March 1 for consideration in fiscal year 2011-12.
State Senator Betty Little announced Tuesday that she will serve as chair of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee.
Little has served on the tourism committee since being elected to the Senate. She says tourism is a critically important economic driver in the North Country.
"Working with all of the committee members, we will do some creative things to promote tourism, the arts, sports recreation and the beautiful parks that add so much to our quality of life throughout the state," she said.