It’s become something of a ritual at the state Capitol since the 1970s. Every two years, a host of counties pass a resolution asking the state Legislature to allow them to continue charging a higher sales tax rate than the mandated county limit of 3 percent.
This year, the Legislature gave the OK to more than 50 counties, most of which are for an extra percentage point. But a disagreement between the Ulster County executive and a longtime assemblyman led to that county’s bill stalling in committee as the Legislature ended its session last month.
(We wrote a bit about the state/county sales-tax relationship here. The state’s share of sales tax is 4 percent.)
The Ulster County Legislature and County Executive Mike Hein (pictured) sought a straight extension of the county’s four-percent rate, with the extra percentage point worth about $22 million, according to Hein.
The request resulted in two bill. One, sponsored by Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton, Ulster County, would have simply extended the rate for two years and was passed by the Senate. But Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a Kingston Democrat who represents nearly all of the county, sponsored a separate bill that would have granted the extension—if the county agreed to take on the cost of local elections from municipalities, as about half of counties do.
Hein and Cahill never came to an agreement—both lay the blame with each other—and both bills languished in the Assembly as the Legislature left town. With the Legislature not scheduled to return to town, the county sales-tax will likely drop to 3 percent come November 30.
“(Hein) did not want to negotiate,” Cahill said earlier this week. “I have been open to negotiating with the county executive since the time he became county executive. It’s he who does not want to negotiate.”
Hein, a Democrat who is president of the state County Executives Association, said the sales-tax rate drop would have a disastrous effect on the county if the situation isn’t somehow resolved before November. He’s held news conferences and issued press releases knocking Cahill for the inaction. The Legislature isn’t scheduled to return to Albany until 2014.
“I fully expected (Cahill) not to vote for it and I fully expected him to not support it, but he then actively used his seniority to block it,” Hein said. “The implications of that are unless the Assembly goes back into session, it would impact the county to the tune of $22 million and the city of Kingston to the tune of $3 million.”