The Herkimer County Legislature earlier this month passed a resolution requesting the state Legislature allow the county to continue to impose an additional 1.25 percent sales tax.
With the legislation having been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly, the county Legislature Wednesday evening was expected to vote to authorize a home rule request, which must accompany the legislation in order for the bills to be voted on.
If both Houses of the state Legislature approve the bills, the county will be allowed to continue to withhold an extra percentage point of sales tax to pay for Medicaid and an extra quarter of a percentage point to pay for the construction of a new jail.
Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono, R – Schuyler, has said withholding the additional sales tax lessens the burden placed on county taxpayers. “Withholding the sales tax is a fair way of paying for Medicaid and the jail because it does not place the burden solely on county taxpayers or residents. Everyone pays for it this way, including the people who stop on the Thruway or who come in from outside the state to vacation here,” he said.
Not all legislators agree with Bono’s position.
“The quarter percent should go back into the local economy rather than stashed away to build a costly oversized jail in the wrong location,” said Legislator Gary Hartman, D – Herkimer, in an email. “Furthermore, my colleagues should have been willing to take a stand and vote on the one percent and the quarter percent separately.”
Prior to the 12-3 vote on the resolution requesting the state Legislature to introduce the legislation, Legislator Helen Rose, D - Herkimer, made a motion requesting to separate the tax into two votes — the first on the one percent sales tax that helps fund the county’s Medicaid expenses and the second on the quarter percent sales tax that goes to building the proposed county jail. The motion was defeated 11-4.
Legislator Dennis Korce, R-Mohawk, has said the quarter percent takes $4,600 a day — $1.5 million a year — out of the local economy. “That’s an awful lot of money,” he said.
Rose has said she believes the county should re-examine the size of the proposed jail before taking additional money out of the local economy. “This is money that could be used to stimulate the economy. Instead, we’re saving it for an oversized jail,” she said.
Bono has said by extending the quarter percent tax the county will have almost half of the estimated $34 million jail project paid for by the end of the year.
If the legislation is approved, the county’s combined state and local sales tax rate will remain 8.25 percent, which includes a four percent state tax and a 4.25 percent local tax.