Essex County may have found favor in sales tax hike fight

Essex County Board of Supervisors

Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas thinks the fight to raise the county's share of the local sales tax to 4 percent may be starting to turn in the county's favor.

Douglas reported during the Feb. 13 Finance Committee meeting that he and Vice Chairman Bill Ferebee of Keene got the chance to speak to Gov. Andrew Cuomo about allowing counties to impose home rule to increase the sales tax. The discussions were held during a lobbying day by the New York State Association of Counties annual conference.

“We had a game plan to hit him with the home rule stuff and when we hit him with six, eight counties right in a row it opened his eyes to what this really means to the smaller counties like ours,” Douglas said. “When he got to Bill and I he said, ‘I've heard it.’”

Douglas said he thinks the governor is now open to the idea of allowing counties to increase the sales tax under home rule law.

“It does not affect the state. It is home rule,” Douglas said. “You can't keep us under a tax cap without letting us do the things that we feel need to be done in order to keep things going in the county.”

The county's share of the local sales tax now sits at 3.75 percent, which lawmakers want to increase to 4 percent. The state's share is also 4 percent, which would mean a total sales tax in the county of 8 percent, up from its current 7.75 percent. Despite efforts in recent years to get the change, the state Legislature has never granted approval.

Douglas said he also had the chance to speak with state Sen. Betty Little about the issue, and that he would be looking for her help as well as the help of Assemblyman Dan Stec.

“I also talked to Betty Little about it at the opening ceremonies of the Empire State Games,” Douglas said. “We are going to draft a letter from here today to Betty and Dan to ask them to propose this.”

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