Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We're Number One, but This Time We Lose

As I've already mentioned, we're tied with Erie County (outside NYC) for the highest sales tax rate in the state: A whopping 8.75%

Oh, we're used to it by now. Sales tax is taken for granted. We pay it when we buy gas, we pay it when we eat out at a restaurant and we pay it when we buy a large ticket item such as a car or similar.

That's when you really notice how much the sales tax adds up to be - when you buy something big. If you buy $20,000 car, you will pay $1750 in sales tax. That's a good chunk of money.

But if you lived in one of our neighboring counties, you might keep $150 of that ... or more. Here's a list of the sales tax rates in our immediate neighboring counties:

Herkimer is 8.25%
Madison is  8.00%
Lewis is      7.75%
Otsego is     8.00%, and so is Onondaga County.

Quite a difference!

The disparity among sales tax rates in the region only means one thing: On large ticket items (except for cars, they are taxed where you live) the counties with the lowest sales tax rate will attract more shoppers. This, of course, hurts the Buy Oneida County philosophy, which I do subscribe to. I do like to buy locally as much as I am able to. (Harden furniture and Meyda lamps are 2 of my favorite O/C manufacturers.)

When Mr. Picente was appointed about 10 years ago, I liked his comments in the press about seeing what he could do to lower the sales tax rate. Seeing as 10 years have passed and now I am seeing him try to keep a bigger share of it by changing the deal that was made 35 or so years ago, now I'm concerned. Not only has he abandoned his ideas of lowering the sales tax rate, he has shifted gears into hurting the villages and towns in the county by grabbing back lawfully owed sales tax dollars to the local governments.

Ironically, I found Jim D'Onofrio's 2013 resume online (time to update that one?) and in it he mentions "eventual reduction of the sales tax rate" (page 3, Jim). So tell us, how has that worked out so far? Eventual is such a vague word. Is that next week, next year or next century?

To top it off, there appears to be some extreme fat hidden in the almost $394 million dollar county budget. So much so, that at election time Mr. Picente can find some money (at election time, what a coincidence!) to spread in a hotly contested district. This time, it's the one I'm running in against his long-time friend and ally (I would hate to use the term rubber stamp, it might be premature).

So, when one town suddenly gets thousands of dollars for new playground equipment and when one town has been told election-year pork might appear in the form of some pool repair money, don't be surprised. Roughly translated, it's called buying your votes with your own tax dollars. It is particularly odious at election time.

As I'm going door to door in the 3 towns that make up D-16, I'm hearing 2 recurring themes: One, is there anything you can do about the sales tax rate, and two: Nobody, but nobody is in favor of a Casino downtown.

After 12 years on the NH Town Board, I'm fully aware that government needs money to pay for services. I'm fully aware that much of these services are state mandated.

But I'm also aware of regional competition to attract spending, and the highest sales tax rate in the Mohawk Valley region is doing nothing to help attract spending here.

We have to do something. Let's start small by eliminating the county portion of sales tax on clothing. The state already did away with it, so now you are only paying for the county portion. But still, clothes are not luxuries, they are necessities and by removing the county's portion on that, at least we can say we've started somewhere.

And then we can keep looking to see how much better we can do. When we get to a rate that matches our neighboring counties, then there will be no reason to shop outside Oneida County anymore.

This can only result in more being spent here, which will help the county revenue all by itself.

So which do you prefer? The highest sales tax rate in the area coupled with election year pork, or would you rather have a lower sales tax rate and forgo the vote-getting pork money?

I thought so.

I respectfully ask for your vote on Primary Day (Sept 12) and in the general election. Thank you.

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