A Meeting Is Planned To Resolve Ulster County Sales Tax Issue

Sep 16, 2013

Credit Emily Conwell, flickr

The controversy over the extension of an additional 1 percent sales tax in Ulster County could come to a head this week. The state assemblyman and county executive at odds over the matter are scheduled to sit down and work toward a solution.

New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Ulster County Executive Michael Hein have strongly disagreed for months about how to extend an additional 1 percent sales tax for the county. Cahill, in a September 12 letter addressed to Hein, requests a meeting to resolve the issue. Hein’s Budget Director James Hanson, in a letter to Cahill also dated September 12, invites Cahill to a meeting in Hein’s office September 18. The letters continue the rancorous tone of the debate, but both sides do agree that a solution in the best interest of Ulster County residents is the goal. Here’s Hein.

Cahill, in his letter, says a negotiated solution between the two Democrats is still possible. Cahill was unable to respond in time for this broadcast as he was called to jury duty. Hein says the meeting will include others.

Previously, Cahill has said it is Hein’s refusal to negotiate that created the situation.

The state Senate passed a bill to extend the authority of Ulster County to impose an additional 1 percent sales tax, which would continue the sales-tax rate at 4 percent. Republican Senator Bill Larkin sponsored the bill. But the Assembly version, sponsored by Democrat Frank Skartados, did not pass, encountering competition from a bill introduced in the final few weeks of the session by Cahill. Here’s Larkin.

Skartados recently told WAMC he plans to stick with his version as well – the one, he says, that allows Ulster County to charge the additional 1 percent sales tax with no strings attached.

Over the summer, County Executive Hein signed a resolution that codifies the county’s intention to absorb the cost of the New York state-mandated Safety Net Program over a three-year period, which is what Cahill wanted. Hein says the revenue loss without the sales-tax extension amounts to the following.

Lawmakers note that every county has the authority to impose a sales tax of 3 percent, yet any extensions or anything additional must be approved by the state legislature every two years. For most counties, the process is routine. In Ulster this time around, the situation became, in Hein’s words, a “Cahill Crisis.” Cahill has previously said most continuations of sales tax include conditions.

Senator Larkin believes the whole issue should rest entirely with the county, and he plans to introduce legislation next year to accomplish this.

Hein and several others have called upon Cahill to urge Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to join with Senate leadership to reconvene the legislature before the regular session in January to take up Ulster County’s temporary additional sales tax and other matters. Cahill says he has, and points to a letter to Silver dated September 6. Cahill, in a statement, says he believes that with Hein’s cooperation, they can resolve their outstanding issues in the upcoming county budget and when the state legislature returns in January.