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Local elections measure cut from state budget

Environmental funds, bottle bill, income tax also affected

By FRITZ MAYER

ALBANY, NY — A measure in the governor’s proposed budget would have allowed town boards in New York State to switch some positions from elected to appointed positions without necessarily having the people vote on the matter. The positions that would have been affected were town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways.

As the law now stands, those changes can only be made if the voters approve. Under Paterson’s proposal, the changes could have been made by the board, and a vote would be required only if about five percent of the electorate petitioned to request an election, a process known as a permissive resolution.

A lot of town clerks in the state, and other elected officials, thought this was a move that would take away power from the voters and they opposed it.

That provision has now been stricken from the final budget. In a press release, assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said, “I am extremely happy that this proposal was stricken from the final budget. Changing the process by which an elected position becomes an appointed position has no place in the state budget. A change like this should come about through a voter referendum only.”

The measure was also opposed at the county and town level. The Sullivan County Legislature passed a resolution against the measure in early March, as did the Bethel Town Board.

Other measures

The budget deal, which was struck over the weekend between Paterson, assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and senate majority leader Malcolm Smith, would also restore money to the New York Environmental Protection Fund. The final budget includes $17 million more for the fund than was initially proposed by Paterson, a move that was applauded by environmentalists.

Another measure likely to please those concerned with environmental stewardship is one that will expand the bottle bill to include a mandatory five-cent deposit not only on carbonated beverages but for the first time on non-carbonated drinks such as water and ice tea. Democrats have been trying to pass that bill for years, and now with Democrats in control of the senate, the bill just might become law as part of the budget process. Under the proposed measure, the state would keep 80 percent of unclaimed deposits, which would amount to an estimated $115 million per year. Under current regulations, bottling companies keep the unclaimed deposits.

On the tax side of the budget, income taxes will go up one percent to 7.85 percent for couples who make more than $300,000 per year, while couples earning more than $500,000 will pay 8.97 percent, an increase of about two percent. The tax increases for the state’s wealthiest residents will raise $4 billion over three years.

Not everyone is happy with the tax increses for the wealthy, especially the folks at the Empire Center for New York State Policy. In a press release the center said, “New York’s $4 billion “temporary” personal income tax increase will cost the state at least 15,500 private sector jobs, according to an economic model created for the Empire Center for New York State Policy by the Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University.”

David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institue said,“Workers who find themselves burdened by the higher tax will move to states with lower taxes. Likewise, employers will shift operations to the low-tax states.”

Lawmakers in Albany were expected to vote on the budget this week.