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Essex County to try again for 4% sales tax

February 8, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

ELIZABETHTOWN - It might feel like deja vu for some Essex County lawmakers.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday passed a pair of resolutions aimed at increasing Essex County's share of the sales tax to an even 4 percent.

The county has already submitted a request for the state Legislature to grant home-rule authority to renew its 3.75 percent sales tax and tack on an additional 0.25 percent. That would bring the sales tax in Essex County to 8 percent: 4 percent for the state and 4 percent for the county.

"Forty-six or 47 counties in New York state are already at 4 percent," said county Attorney Dan Manning, "we're not going any higher than anybody else."

Essex's neighboring counties are already at 8 percent.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward told the Enterprise she will gladly support the measure. She said last year, a similar request failed to go anywhere because the mantra from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office was "no new taxes."

"This year it's questionable," Sayward said. "Our leadership here in our house hasn't said one way or another how we're going to look at these bills."

Sayward said she asked Essex County leadership to present her with a home-rule request to increase the sales tax as soon as possible "so we can get the bill in and have more time to work it and get it through."

But what Sayward really wants to see is a change in state law that would give counties the authority to increase sales tax to the same level as the state without needing approval from the Legislature.

"We're really not making the decision; that's what bothers me," Sayward said. "This is truly home-rule authority. It has to go through the Assembly and Senate and be approved by the governor, and then even if this bill were approved and signed, it still has to go through the local law process, and you still have to hold public hearings and talk to people, and then take the vote with county supervisors."

Sayward said the state should be able to set limits on sales tax, but it's not right "for the state to implement a 2 percent cap on spending, not decrease its obligation of Medicaid significantly, and still tell them they can't increase sales tax when it is the people that decide."

Crown Point town Supervisor Charles Harrington said an 8 percent sales tax might help "mom and pop" businesses in the county because it's an even number.

"When the sales tax was at 7 percent, the people who managed those businesses had all the figures right in their hand," he said. "When it came to seven and three-quarters percent, it blew me right out of the water."



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