New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers attended the most recent New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) legislative priorities meeting held on Monday, Nov. 19 in Albany.
NYCOM held the meeting to establish a narrowly focused legislative agenda for 2019. The agenda is composed of five categories of priorities which include varying programs and plans that NYCOM members hope to implement in the upcoming year.
The five legislative priorities listed for 2019 include: increasing state funding for infrastructure, establishing the New York municipal investment initiative, providing state and local tax equity, authorizing municipalities to impose a service charge on large tax-exempt properties and creating and enhancing tools to address distressed and abandoned properties.
The four most important items included in the legislative priorities for the Village regarded infrastructure, AIM funding, internet sales tax and revisions for Gross Receipts Tax (GRT).
According to Rogers, the biggest difference between the priorities for 2018 and the priorities for 2019 is establishing the New York municipal investment initiative, which regards the current system of AIM funding. NYCOM’s 2019 initiative would involve the state granting $100 million in funds to villages and towns through a “needs-based formula,” which would be based on population size, poverty levels, services offered and the amount of tax-exempt property within the boundaries of a municipality.
“I feel like the municipalities have been asking the state for some time to increase how much money we get via AIM and this is a way to just formalize that program,” Rogers said. “They were thinking that if it’s a formalized program where there’s a needs-based formula and a strategy that can be clearly identified, then the governor would be more supportive of it as opposed to just automatically increasing the support for AIM funding.”
On July 20, Mayor Rogers addressed the priority for providing state and local tax equity through explaining that GRT is one of the Village’s top sources of revenue.
According to NYCOM, towns and villages currently “have the option of imposing [GRT] on the gross operating income of utility companies located within their boundaries, at a rate of [one percent].” Two possible revisions to the GRT include expanding the GRT scope to include cellular services and requiring compliance with GRT tax laws.
Under the same legislative priority of providing state and local tax equity, Rogers said the internet sales tax is an important legislation for the village. According to NYCOM, the internet sales tax would narrow the disadvantage that “Main Street brick and mortar businesses” face since in the State of New York, they are required to charge a sales tax, while online businesses are not. The internet sales tax would require the collection of a sales tax on products sold to New York residents online and would close the “unfair tax loophole.”
In addition, the specific plan in the priority for increasing state funding infrastructure Mayor Rogers is most interested in is called the Safe Water Infrastructure Action Program (SWAP). The SWAP program is designed to aid cities and villages in addressing inadequate water, sewage and storm water infrastructure and would help municipalities manage and invest in the replacement and repair of municipally-owned and funded drinking water, storm water and sanitary sewer systems.
“We have enormous needs to update our infrastructure and instead of having to compete for grants every year it would be great for capital planning purposes to know that we have a certain amount of money coming in based on our population,” Rogers said. “The SWAP program tries to smooth out the vagaries of who gets money and when. That’s an incredibly important piece for the state funding and infrastructure.”