The idea goes by the ungainly name of PAYGo NY, but what it lacks in elegance it makes up in needed focus. The new organization is the brainchild of Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who also happens to be president of the New York State County Executives Association. Its goal is to identify and replicate innovative solutions to the fiscal challenges of local governments while detailing the bureaucratic hurdles that hinder reform, among them unfunded mandates from higher levels of government.
Hein brings a practiced eye to the problems of government. While he is the first-ever county executive in his Hudson Valley county, and holding his first-ever elected office, he has served in other government positions, including as the county’s deputy treasurer and later its administrator.
As such, he is intimately familiar with the nuts and bolts of county government, including the many challenges facing it in this high-tax state. PAYGo NY is meant to delve into the stresses facing all local governments, including cities, towns, villages and school districts. In that he has the support of other government organizations, including the New York Conference of Mayors, the Association of Towns and the New York State School Boards Association.
Hein seems a good choice to lead this effort. As county executive, he engineered the sale – and thus the salvation – of the county’s nursing home. He also helped to rationalize the snow plowing services run by the county’s towns. Such issues are frequently heavy lifts in other counties. Their achievement says something about his leadership.
His aim in organizing PAYGo NY – beyond, perhaps, making himself known in other parts of the state – is to identify practices that will help New York’s local governments – each with unique problems – to deliver quality services in a deteriorating fiscal environment.
How can counties better manage the costs of Medicaid? The state has offered some relief, but the costs remain high. School districts need to worry not only about maintaining high-quality academic programs in a financially difficult period, but also sports and music programs, and all while managing the fiscal threat of burgeoning retirement costs.
PAYGo provides a mechanism for all these stakeholders to share information, seek solutions that can be replicated and identify state and federal barriers to change.