As unfunded mandates continue to decimate counties across New York State, the Governor has chosen to utilize the budget process to further his agenda on changing the age of criminal responsibility which will ultimately result in additional unfunded mandate hardships.

First and foremost, raise the age legislation shouldn’t be hidden amongst hundreds of other issues within the budget process. Serious policy discussion with all of the stakeholders involved needs to occur.

This will not happen with the manner in which the Governor is attempting pass the legislation.

No matter how you slice it, this is an additional unfunded mandate. The transportation of these additional offenders (16-17) will substantially increase an already overburdened system as the Governor’s proposal does not provide automatic full reimbursement to counties as initially promised.

The proposal instead requires counties to go through a tedious and complicated demonstration of financial hardship and tax cap compliance prior to reimbursement consideration.

The increased financial burden to any individual county can’t be forecasted at this time due to the fact that we don’t know where any of the newly proposed OCFS facilities will be located.

New York State is already dealing with a shortage of bed space for 14- and 15-year-old juvenile offenders and the legislation offers no guarantees that the state will ever build additional juvenile facilities beyond the $110 million appropriation outlined in the budget if needed.

Several of the localities throughout New York State that house Family Court proceedings are already lacking sufficient space to deal with current court calendars. This increased caseload will only exacerbate that problem.

The criminal justice system in New York State already offers multiple programs aimed at providing 16- and 17-year-old offenders a way to turn their lives around without having long lasting negative implications. Those programs include youthful offender provisions, diversion programs, drug rehabilitation initiatives and educational opportunities.

Without the proper input from all stakeholders and major modifications to the current language, the cost of this legislation will be placed directly upon the backs of the county taxpayer.

Additionally, this legislation will hamper the manner in which law enforcement investigations are currently conducted because no questioning of a 16- or 17-year-old suspects would be allowed without a parent or guardian having been notified.

Often crime-solving information is obtained from these suspects as they can currently speak candidly with law enforcement.

I’m asking you to contact your local state senator and ask them to remove this piece of legislation from the 2017-18 budget process.

This legislation is more about the Governor building his resume for a national platform than it is passing sensible legislation to address how to appropriately deal with 16- and 17-year-old offenders.

We all had the opportunity to witness how the Governor reacted when he had the opportunity to assist counties with the unfunded mandate of Medicaid: He’s not interested.

Let’s send a collective message that a “Raise the Age” bill with unfunded mandates is unacceptable.

Orange County Sheriff

Sheriff Carl E. DuBois