County officials talk recommendations to close NY budget holes

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As a result of the economic impact from COVID-19, New York State’s budget deficit has grown by billions of dollars. 

According to the State Division of the Budget, the deficit stands at $14.5 billion, which amounts to $62 billion over four years. On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said if there’s no federal aid, several steps could be taken to “try to fill” the gap.

“Taxes, cuts, borrowing, early retirement, all of the above, and all of the above won’t fill that hole,” the Governor said.  

While permanent across the board 20 percent cuts for schools, hospitals and local governments haven’t been made, yet, there have been with-holdings, and counties across the state are already feeling financial pains. 

“They are now slowly turning off the reimbursement, and state funding valve to local governments and schools, so they can meet there they can slow the funds, going out of the state budget and try to close their budget gap. There are other ways that they can go about doing this, but this is the way that they have chosen,” said New York State Association of Counties Deputy Director Mark LaVigne.

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) has put together a report of more than 80 recommendations that can be taken to close budget gaps. 

“I don’t think we can wait any longer. Honestly, there’s a good chance that Washington either doesn’t come through at all or comes through but not to the level that we need to continue to provide services that our residents need locally. So, we need some action from the state, we need some decisions from the state that will help counties and local governments and schools get through these times,” LaVigne said.

Some actions include granting “permanent sales tax authority for all counties for a local sales tax at their existing rate or up to 4 percent,” temporarily allowing counties to exceed the property tax cap “without penalty” in certain cases, increasing Thruway tolls for out of state residents, and allowing mobile sports gaming that shares revenue with counties. 

“We’re saying yes, open up mobile sports betting. If you’re going to, let’s open it up; let’s do it through the OTBs. Let’s share the revenue with the counties,” he said.

He says NYSAC is not taking a position on the legalization of recreational marijuana, but says if it is legalized, there should be a county vote and localities should get a share of the sales taxes.

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