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Lawmakers: Cuomo’s AIM proposal insufficient

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March 21, 2019 10:04 pm

Twin County lawmakers are calling for the governor to fully restore a state program that provides funding to cities, towns and villages after it was threatened by budget cuts earlier this year.

Aid and Incentives for Municipalities provides funding to state cities, towns and villages, excluding New York City.

In the initial 2019-20 executive budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cutting nearly $60 million for towns and villages that use AIM funding for less than 2 percent of their budgets.

The cuts were met with widespread opposition. Last month, Cuomo proposed restoring the money by using revenue from a potential state internet sales tax.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said because the internet sales tax has not been passed, Cuomo’s proposal to restore AIM funding is dependent on a tax that doesn’t exist.

“The way the governor’s budget amendment was designed, the county would make up the money, which makes it an unfunded mandate on the counties,” Linger said. “It’s not a bill we currently pay. It’s a cost that would be passed on to the counties.”

If the internet sales tax is rejected, county property taxes would have to cover the AIM funding, Linger said.

The internet sales tax may not cover the loss in AIM funding, even if the sales tax is written into law, Linger said, adding the remaining balance would have to be covered by property taxes.

Officials and advocates are calling for the full restoration of AIM funding from state coffers, rather than county taxes, as the state budget is debated in Albany. Last month, the state Assembly and Senate elected to restore funding for AIM .

“This is nothing more than a new $60 million state mandate that homeowners and small businesses will have to finance while not improving the finances of cities, towns and village across the state,” Charles H. Nesbitt Jr., president of the New York State Association of Counties, said in a statement.

Greene County AIM funding would amount to $247,024 spread across the county’s towns and villages, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.

“The governor cut the funding to save money for the state, then he restored it, but linked it to the counties and an internet sales tax, but there is no internet sales tax right now,” Groden said. “If the internet sales tax were passed, any new money would go to the towns and villages, so the county would not receive any money.”

The proposed internet sales tax would not be a new tax — just a new way to collect that money, the county administrator said.

“I don’t believe the internet sales tax is a new tax,” Groden said. “The brick-and-mortar retail stores are dying... more people are going on the computer to shop. People are buying the same stuff, but the medium they are using is new, so it is not a new tax. It’s just a new way of collecting it.”

In Columbia County, the loss of AIM funding would be greater.

“For Columbia County towns and villages, it would be approximately $330,000,” said Matt Murell, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and town supervisor of Stockport. “For example, my town, Stockport, would lose $20,000, which would leave a pretty significant hole in our budget.”

The governor’s proposal would burden counties to make up the difference, Murell said.

“He [Cuomo] is taking it out of our pocket to restore it, so it’s not really a restoration,” Murell said. “I don’t support taking the money from the counties to pay for it.”

F. Michael Tucker, CEO and president of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, said AIM funding plays a key role for municipalities.

“The Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program has been an important source of state aid for towns and villages,” Tucker said. “It is important that this issue be resolved without negatively impacting local government services.”

Only villages and towns would be affected by the $60 million loss in funding, so the city of Hudson would not be affected, Hudson Mayor Rick Rector said.

“The city of Hudson has never been in jeopardy of losing the money,” Rector added. “Cities are being funded. It’s the villages and towns that would be affected.”

For Claverack, the loss of funding would hurt, but Town Supervisor Clifford Weigelt said the town would handle it, if necessary.

“This would be quite a hit,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world because we have been doing pretty well and we are in good financial shape. It would hurt us, but we would have to deal with it. We hope it is refunded, but we will deal with whatever happens.”

For Twin-County municipalities, eliminating the funding will hit after towns set their budgets for the year, Coxsackie Town Supervisor Rick Hanse said.

“For Coxsackie, it would be upwards of $16,000 that we would lose in funding,” Hanse said. “What the governor doesn’t seem to care about is that we had to prepare our budgets, by state law, in November and he is taking it out of this budget year, so it is money we would lose in our budget that we had counted on. It is blatantly unfair to do this in the middle of the budget year.”

Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patrick Grattan sees several issues with the governor’s internet sales tax proposal to restore AIM funding, he said, such as times when the general economy turns sluggish.

“If people aren’t buying items, it won’t generate revenue,” Grattan said. “When the money came from the state, you were guaranteed that money would come through, ut with this, if there is a slump and consumers aren’t shopping, the money won’t be there.”