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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Finish one, start the next"

ALBANY, June 27 -- I’ve said from the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, my first as a state senator, that no matter how many changes and reforms are put in place this year, the governor and the Legislature won’t get it all right, all at once. And as this year’s session concludes, that’s the case.

We’ve clearly taken steps to refocus state government’s commitment to Medicaid reform, upstate property tax and mandate relief, a stronger economy and a streamlined bureaucracy. Overall it’s been positive for taxpayers. But all this earns the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo is time to start again and the chance to keep building the momentum to do more, and do it better.

That's especially true, now, in the area of providing our localities with more significant relief from the state-imposed mandates that have been out of control for decades. I stated on the floor of the Senate last Friday night, with this year's session winding down, that while we've made a start on mandate relief, we've still a long ways to go (you can view my floor comments in their entirety on my website, In fact, more significant mandate relief remains priority No. 1 in state government.

So I’ll start this look-ahead by refocusing on an issue that’s going to stay on the Capitol’s radar. For me, it means an ongoing focus on the state’s No. 1 expense and the largest unfunded mandate on localities: Medicaid. It remains timely. The New York Times recently noted that the end of June also marks the end, for states across America, of an influx of federal stimulus funding that over the past two years bumped up the average federal share of Medicaid spending nationwide from 57 percent to 67 percent. These additional federal dollars dry up in about a week.

Which is why it was so important for New York that this year’s state budget set in motion the most significant redesign of Medicaid ever attempted. It’s a system, as noted time and time again, that today costs taxpayers more than one billion dollars a week. It’s a system that continues to sap the budgets of local government in alarming ways. In short, we started 2011 with an out-of-control Medicaid system. Recognizing this, the governor put in place a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) that successfully proposed this year’s enacted reforms and, equally important, remains at work. You can follow this effort through the following website:

Still, there’s a nagging question for many of us: are we doing enough? So I’ve been pushing – and will keep pushing – for:

– the more widespread use of modern technology like the computer software developed and continually fine-tuned by the Horseheads-based Salient Corporation. There’s no magic bullet – you don’t install the software and watch the problem clean itself up – but the Salient technology
lays out a blueprint for effectively detecting and preventing fraud, inefficiency, mismanagement, overutilization and waste. My legislation (S.4614 ) would help more localities get started with its use;

-- the reinstatement of the eligibility requirements for face-to-face interviews, finger-imaging and asset tests for Medicaid applicants that were once conducted by counties but that were eliminated as part the 2009-10 state budget. It’s time to bring them back; and, finally,

-- legislation (S.5787), which I have introduced with local Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, that would effectively freeze local Medicaid costs by requiring the state to pick up the total cost of future Medicaid growth. The idea behind this move is that if it’s the state’s responsibility, then the state will become more aggressive at fighting fraud and waste, and even more intent on redesigning the system.

So as one session finishes, we need to get right to work getting ready for the next one. If anyone needed another reminder about the urgency of ongoing Medicaid reform, the message from the recent New York Times article delivers it: the sooner, the better.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869