Image(October 1, 2014) — Quipping that he had failed to snag Bill Gates for an appearance at our meeting, Gary Stewart introduced our own home grown maverick of public service, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, Mike Lane. A practicing attorney, Mike has served multiple terms on the legislature, multiple terms as Mayor of Dryden, and a number of other elected offices. Mike assured us that he harbored no bad feelings for being a second choice to Mr. Gates (who, we understood, would have called in had Siri not dialed the Lion’s Club instead).


In his gentle and reassuring style, Mike Lane talked about Counties; how counties differ from Towns and Villages, how the governments of different counties are organized differently, and about our county. The political power in Tompkins is in legislative committees, beginning with the legislature’s charge to hire an administrator rather than having an elected county executive.

ImageCounties, Mike said, have to do what the state doesn’t want to do. The mechanism for this is unfunded mandates that the state imposes on the counties. By forcing these mandates the state effectively grabs hold of local school and property taxes. The most high profile example of this is Medicaid, which consumes nearly 25% of our local property taxes. Mike reviewed the state tax cap, and how it impacts our services now and how its impact will build over the coming years by forcing governments to show savings through consolidation of services.

Other points that Mike touched on included:

  • Thanks to the municipal health care consortium, employee insurance premiums will increase this year at a considerably lower rate than elsewhere;
  • TC3 is facing a significant enrollment shortfall;
  • Tompkins County Public Library continues to face a structural deficit;
  • Emergency response preparedness is a major issue that needs to be addressed, especially by local businesses;
  • We are 2 years away from our county’s bicentennial;
  • A state constitutional amendment dealing with a redistricting commission is on this November’s ballot; and
  • A vote on whether or not to hold a constitutional convention will come up in 2017.

Mike urged all residents to especially become familiar with the last 2 issues.