JAMESTOWN -- Majority Leader Chuck Cornell announced Tuesday that the Chautauqua County Legislature's Democratic majority is supporting a proposal to eliminate the county sales tax on home heating fuels.
Cornell said in a statement he will introduce a resolution to cut the home heating tax to 2 percent on Dec. 1 and to eliminate it Dec. 1, 2007.
The tax is on residential fuel oil, coal, wood, propane, natural gas, electricity and steam.
In 1979, New York State eliminated its part of the energy tax and gave counties the option to eliminate the remaining 4.25 percent.
Cornell also said Chautauqua County would become one of the only counties in Western New York to eliminate the tax. Statewide, 19 counties still tax home energy purchases.
"The people of Chautauqua County will benefit tremendously from the elimination of this onerous, regressive tax," Cornell said. "This proposal will help those county residents who are struggling to pay their heating bills. It will help working families that have been feeling the squeeze with heating bills that are going through the roof. By implementing this proposal in two steps, I believe it will draw strong bipartisan support."
Legislature Chairman Keith Ahlstrom called the proposal a step in the right direction. He said implementing it in two stages is consistent with the county's strong record on financial management over the past several years.
Cornell said estimates show the elimination will put about $4 million back into the pockets of Chautauqua County residents annually.
He said the tax cut would be absorbed by a $6 million surplus from 2005, with a surplus also expected this year.
He also suggested that the continuous increase in sales tax revenue would absorb some of the lost income.
The "bottom line," he said, is about returning some of the surplus . . . back to the residents of Chautauqua County," Cornell said.