Erie County’s sales tax rate will remain at 8.75 percent, New York’s highest now that Oneida County has dropped its rate.
WHY NO MEDIA COVERAGE ON THE VOTES TO EXTEND SALES TAXES !
OH WAIT, BUSINESS AS USUALLY,
Extra penny of sales tax headed for another extension
By Matthew Spina NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Updated: 01/25/08 6:51 AM
The Erie County Legislature on Thursday took its second of the three procedural votes required to continue levying the sales tax penny first added in 1985, the “temporary penny” that triggers political haggling whenever it’s extended.
This year’s action was no exception as lawmakers grudgingly voted, 12-3, to continue the penny through November 2010 — 11 months beyond their current term in office.
With one more vote in a few weeks, Erie County’s sales tax rate will remain at 8.75 percent, New York’s highest now that Oneida County has dropped its rate to 8.75 percent as well.
The 12-member Democratic majority split into two loose camps this month after Democrat Lynn M. Marinelli broke a taboo: She turned to the Legislature’s three Republican lawmakers for support in order to continue as chairwoman for another year.
Her opponents later grumbled that the Republicans should not expect Democrats alone to cast the politically unpopular votes to keep the penny in place. Without the three Republican votes Thursday, the extension would have failed.
“Realistically, there is no way we can avoid that 1 percent,” said Legislator John Mills of Orchard Park, the Republican minority leader (despite the fact that 60 of NY's 61 other counties have) . “My colleagues and I aren’t going to put ourselves in a position where we are going to disrupt the government.”
Erie County will continue to share $12.5 million of the proceeds each year with cities, towns and villages, with Buffalo collecting the greatest share. Three legislators wanted to instead give the $12.5 million to cultural groups, the Olmsted Parks and a road repair fund.
But proponents Michele M. Iannello of Kenmore, Robert B. Reynolds of Hamburg and Thomas A. Loughran of Amherst, all Democrats, were outnumbered. They cast the only votes against the sales tax extension.
Erie County sorely needs the estimated $135 million a year generated by the temporary penny, Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz once wrote in analyzing the government’s reliance on the sales tax over the property tax. But Poloncarz remarked that the dynamics over the penny’s extension since 1985 “only serves to encourage grandstanding, pandering and hysteria.”
Sales tax extensions require support from a two-thirds majority of legislators, and traditionally the party in power provides the largest bloc of support. But lawmakers often withhold their votes for something in return.
Marinelli is supported by a thin majority of legislators but cannot count on a majority of her Democratic caucus.
The strategy to extend the tax through November 2010 was devised by former County Executive Joel A. Giambra and his lawyers before he left office. Extending the tax for 30 months lets the county go through the process with Albany less frequently and puts it on the same November renewal cycle as other counties.
County Executive Chris Collins, a Republican, later said he was pleased the tax was extended.
“Today’s vote is a continuing sign that the days of brazen partisanship are over,” he said in a written statement. “ . . . For those few legislators who still believe that partisan games are the best approach, I am hopeful that they will join the rest of us to help make a real difference for taxpayers.”
Eastern Niagara Pundit