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REPUBLICANS IRK INCUMBENT WITH PUSH TO SPEED TAX CUT

A proposal from some Republican Assembly candidates has prompted a sharp rebuke from at least one Democratic incumbent.

The issue involves a GOP-championed proposal to accelerate a 1997 measure calling for dramatic cuts in the state's Gross Receipts Tax, known as GRT, on electric utilities, telecommunications and phone companies.

Saturday, outside the Mahoney State Office Building, some Republican Assembly candidates from Western New York chastised Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan and his fellow Democrats for what they said was a reluctance to speed up the 30 percent reduction in the tax "so that consumers can enjoy relief sooner."

"Due to the economic renaissance that we have seen today, it affords the opportunity for the Senate and Assembly to accelerate this," said Richard W. Crawford Jr., a member of the Grand Island Town Board and the GOP candidate in the 144th Assembly District.

Republicans say that the plan the Legislature approved last year calls for returning more than $450 million annually to consumers in the year 2000, but only $28 million in relief is scheduled this year. Their plan would provide an additional $81 million this year and another $109 million next year.

Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, regards the GOP plan as blatant politicking leading up to Election Day.

"The ultimate goal is to eliminate the GRT, and that is not inconsistent with what our position has been in the past. I think we're splitting political hairs here," Tokasz, of the 143rd Assembly District, said in a telephone interview later in the day. "It seems it's nice (for them) to say during a campaign season."

If Gov. Pataki "includes that plan in his budget, I'm sure the majority would be happy to consider it if the economics allow for that," he said.

"We've done a very good job at cutting taxes. If they want to criticize Sheldon Silver, they can criticize him for cutting taxes. I'd like to see them do that," Tokasz added.

Kenmore Mayor John W. Beaumont, the GOP candidate in the 140th Assembly District, disagrees.

"Sheldon Silver refuses to put money back into the pockets of taxpayers. He's not working to help the economy of Western New York or its taxpayers," Beaumont charged. He further criticized area incumbent Assembly members for consistently backing Silver's stance.

"We have been taxed too much for too long and we need to get a unified front elected to the State Assembly," said James P. Hayes, a member of the Amherst Town Board and the GOP candidate in the 142nd Assembly District.

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