Saturday: SLC Sales Tax Hike Passes

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St. Lawrence County can raise its sales tax.

The 1 percent increase passed the state senate overnight Friday into Saturday.

Word came in a  5:30 a.m. Saturday press release from state senator Joe Griffo, who represents part of St. Lawrence County and who supported giving the county the right to raise its sales tax.

The change now goes to Governor Cuomo, who is expected to approve it.

County officials have lobbied hard for the increase for more than two years, as St. Lawrence County's finances worsened. In order to secure the support of the Republkican state senators who represent St. Lawrence County, they agreed to use some of the money to cut property taxes.

Despite that, it wasn't at all clear the sales tax would pass the state senate before the legislature's session ends - Republicans in general are adverse to supporting any tax increase, and the handful of Democrats who have sided with Republicans to run the state senate have similar issues with taxes.

In a statement Saturday, Griffo urged county leaders to consider a gradual reduction of county property taxes, spaced evenly over the next few years rather than the one proposal currently being considered: cutting it 14 percent in the first year and then increasing taxes by 2 percent over the next two years.

“If the Governor approves this home-rule bill, then I think it’s incumbent upon the St. Lawrence County legislature to look to immediately plan a way to reduce the property tax burden in a fiscally-responsible way that reduces the rate over a regular set amount over the next three years,” Griffo said. “This will avoid roller-caoster budgeting.”

Senator Griffo's complete statement...

Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-C-IP, Rome) said today that the legislation to allow the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators to raise its sales tax by 1% if they so choose,  has passed the State Senate.

Senate bill 5104 allows St. Lawrence County government to raise its local sales tax from 3 to 4 percent.

“I respect the home-rule wishes of the County leaders who have advocated in their desire to increase the sales tax,” said Senator Griffo.  “As a former County Executive, I’m very familiar with the challenges that municipalities face when confronted with rising, mandated costs and flat revenue projections. Every available option should be discussed, reviewed with the opportunity for a public discussion, before a tax increase is considered. Reductions, restructuring, and reassessments are an essential part of this process. The County Leaders have assured me and my colleagues in the Legislature, that all contingencies have been examined and that the best course of action, in their judgment,  is to raise the sales tax instead property taxes.”

Griffo urged county leaders to begin considering an immediate gradual reduction of county property taxes, spaced evenly over the next few years rather than the one proposal currently being considered: cutting it 14 percent in the first year and then increasing taxes by 2 percent over the next two years.

“If the Governor approves this home-rule bill, then I think it’s incumbent upon the St. Lawrence County legislature to look to immediately plan a way to reduce the property tax burden in a fiscally-responsible way that reduces the rate over a regular set amount over the next three years,” Griffo said. “This will avoid roller-caoster budgeting.”

Griffo, who supported tax and spending cuts in the current State budget, said that it’s essential to plan for the future because struggling businesses and families need help now. “If government brings in revenue, it will find a way to spend it,” Griffo said. “There needs to be a plan to use the additional revenue that will provide immediate relief and not put it off one year to count a windfall.”

“Even with the County’s severe fiscal need to reduce their deficit, there is nothing gained if the taxpayers are the losers. The local Chambers of Commerce, farmers, homeowners and senior citizens; they all have lists of taxes they need the state to cut. More spending and more taxes will only delay St. Lawrence’s economic recovery.” Griffo said.

Friday, April 18, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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