OC Leg leader: County keeping gas tax intact because funds needed for roads, services

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 June 2022 at 3:21 pm

Lynne Johnson

ALBION – Orleans County officials don’t plan to suspend any of the sales tax on gas, Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said.

“We need to use these funds to improve bridges, emergency response and communication services, otherwise we become further burdened with fixable and unfixable problems,” Johnson said today.

There are 62 counties in the state and 25 have suspended the gas tax when the price hits either $2 or $3 a gallon.

Among the rural GLOW counties, only Livingston is waiving the sales tax – and that’s after $3 a gallon. Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming haven’t suspended the local share of the tax.

New York State today is suspending the full 4-percent state sales tax on gas until Dec. 31, saving consumers an estimated $609 million over the next seven months, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office said.

“Should we not say that we must have a balance between a tax cut that would not improve old equipment and deteriorating roads and would benefit outside persons at the detriment of our own citizens?” Johnson wrote in an email.

“Do we not continue to improve our county’s emergency response equipment and communications and services? Do we just let equipment that needs repair deteriorate so it needs to be replaced at greater cost?”

Sales tax revenues for Orleans and counties are up so far this year, but counties have rising costs with inflationary increases, said State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in an April 29 report. The counties face economic volatility due to the business recovery from the pandemic, he added.

“The increased revenues come as residents, municipalities and businesses everywhere try to cope with high inflation levels affecting food, fuel, home heating, and other parts of everyday life and commerce, and using funds for infrastructure, emergency response and communications, is in my opinion a better field to spread our tax monies,” Johnson said.

She is concerned losing the tax revenue on gas would have a detrimental impact on the county budget, necessitating a property tax increase or cut in services.

“Today all of us know of gas prices reaching towards $5 a gallon and its effect on struggling families, seniors, and all of us but we have many safety issues and maintenance issues that we could not address because of the Albany imposed 2% tax cap,” she said.