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Capital Region Leaders Take Aim At AIM

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin (at the posium) as Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and other officials look on.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin (at the posium) as Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and other officials look on.

As budget season heats up in Albany, a bipartisan group of Capital Region lawmakers and county leaders gathered across the river from the capitol today to pressure New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over local aid.

Under the Democratic governor’s 30-Day Budget Amendment proposal, the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program would use anticipated internet sales tax revenue to preserve some $59 million in revenues.

Speaking in East Greenbush, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy criticized that newfound funding mechanism.   "That basically us affects us in potential sales tax revenue that we haven't even got. So before we even get to the sales tax revenue they've already decided how we're gonna spend it. That's not government. That's not a partnership. That's a dictatorship."

Town of East Greenbush Supervisor Jack Conway:   "Earlier this morning we had a meeting here that the County Executive holds quarterly, a supervisor's roundtable. And I think those are important because they speak to a kind of working partnership between county and municipality.  We've developed that in Rensselaer County, we value it. And we think that the latest ideas on the AIM funding which is that the county will make us whole really isn't something that makes us whole. We think it's basically something that robs Peter to pay Paul. We request that the state restore AIM funding in our case. We have basically a $10 million tax levy. Every $100,000 is a 1 percent tax increase. So the almost $75,000 we'll lose under the governor's proposal will be a 3/4 of a 1 percent tax increase on the residents of East Greenbush."

McCoy says the changes would disrupt stability and change the way counties and municipalities interact.   "In the Town of Colonie this is basically $500,000 in funding that Paula Mahan loses. Now to raise taxes to meet that, she'll probably have to raise taxes over 2, 2.5 percent to make up for that funding. And to really pit us against each other, at a time when we need to be working together, and telling the nation what it means to be a New Yorker, come together, it's not the right message."

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin:   "Just for Rensselaer County, if we are made to pay this bill it's $600,000 of taxpayer money. We work closely hand-in-hand with our towns and villages but as Jack just said this is robbing Peter to pay Paul."

McLaughlin senses a calamity in the making.   "There's an 8 percent sales tax. The state gets their 4 percent cut. They collect all 8. They keep 4 and then 4 comes out to the county which we then share with our towns and villages. So what the governor is proposing is to keep his 4 — he keeps talking about Internet Sales Tax, which is not the law yet, has not even passed, but what's he's attempting  to do is say 'I'm gonna keep all of that Internet Sales Tax for the state and I'm gonna make the county pay what the state should be paying.’"

Mentioning early voting, McLaughlin says it’s "an avalanche of unfunded mandates."   "The state needs to take their responsibility seriously and provide this aid incentives back where it belongs. When the governor says he restored it - restoring something means you put it back the way it was. He actually just shifted the buck over to us and handed us a bill. Imagine if somebody was paying you $50,000 a year and then they just turned to somebody else and said 'here now you pay it.' That's basically what's going on. It's wrong on so many levels."

Division of the Budget spokesman Morris Peters fielded WAMC's request for comment, stating in an email "Our budget puts local businesses on a level playing field with online retailers while raising $220 million in sales taxes for counties outside New York City, meaning it will generate enough revenue to ensure towns and villages are kept whole following changes to the AIM program while still leaving most of the new revenues to counties to bolster their budgets or provide tax cuts.”

The new fiscal year starts April 1.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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