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Senate: Cuomo's fee and tax hikes would cost New Yorkers $4.5 billion

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget would result in tax and fee hikes of as much as $4.5 billion if fully implemented in the next couple of years, Senate Republican officials said Monday morning.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Cuomo’s 2017 fiscal plan alone would hike motor vehicle fees by $250 million this year. The fee hikes were not discussed by Cuomo when he publicly unveiled his proposed budget last week.

“When you tell me there’s basically nothing and then there’s $250 million in new (motor vehicle) fees, that’s important for the public to know and it’s important for it to be part of the discussion,’’ Flanagan said. The Long Island Republican spoke after addressing a gathering of county clerks, many of whom run local motor vehicle offices on behalf of the state government.

In all, $803 million would be raised in higher taxes and fees, Senate Republican officials said after Flanagan’s brief session with reporters. Those higher fees, when fully effective in the next several years, would end up costing taxpayers $4.5 billion a year.

The Cuomo administration lashed out at the Senate GOP analysis, saying $700 million of the $803 million tax and fee hike claimed by the Senate would come from extending an income tax surcharge on wealthy people. They said 45,000 people would have to pay the higher tax rate if extended.

“No one is fooled by their fuzzy math. This is clearly a smokescreen to mask Senate Republican support for giving a tax break to millionaires – half of which don’t even live in New York – at the expense of the middle class,’’ said Richard Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman.

If the tax surcharge on the wealthy is not extended, forget additional funding for education or tax cuts for middle class, Cuomo said during an Editorial Board meeting at The Buffalo News on Monday.

The surcharge affects 45,000 millionaires, half of whom are nonresidents and 3 percent of whom live upstate, Cuomo said.

“I wonder who they are representing and whose interests they’re carrying,” Cuomo said of Republicans who oppose extending the surcharge on the wealthy.

The surcharge, dubbed the “millionaire’s tax,” generates “a tremendous amount of money,” Cuomo said.

The Buffalo News last week reported on the cornucopia of tax and fee hikes contained in Cuomo’s $162.2 billion budget plan. There is a doubling in the amount New Yorkers would have to pay to get a title to a motor vehicle; in all, motor vehicle fees are proposed by Cuomo to rise 28 percent this year.

Cuomo also wants more of an effort to be made to collect sales taxes on internet sales through Amazon and other such second-party sellers of goods. The state would save $50 million this year under Cuomo’s plan by capping increases in STAR property tax breaks for some homeowners. There would also be tax increases on the energy sector, or at least a portion of that industry. There are higher taxes proposed on cigar purchases as well as new taxes on vapor products, such as e-cigarettes.

Cuomo's proposed budget also includes a $250 annual increase – in each of the next five years – for tuition at the State University of New York. At the same time, he proposes a free college tuition program for some students in the system.

“I want to have fairness and equity all around,’’ Flanagan said when asked about the Cuomo plan to both raise and lower college tuition.

Senate Republicans will huddle behind closed doors at the Capitol to get their first full briefing from fiscal aides on the various aspects of Cuomo’s 2017 budget plan.

The Senate's $803 million net total "revenue actions" proposed by Cuomo for this year does not include $128 million in "enforcement actions,'' such as requiring internet sellers like Amazon to collect taxes directly from consumers. The top proposed fee increase under Cuomo's budget for this year: $74 million from higher fees slapped on consumers who get vehicle titles from the state motor vehicle agency. By the 2019-20 fiscal year, the revenue actions Cuomo is proposing this year would bring the state $4.9 billion annually, of which $4.5 billion would come from keeping in place the expiring surcharge on millionaires.

The taxes and fees Cuomo wants to increase this year would be worth a total of $13.9 billion during the next four years, the Senate estimated on Monday.

The Assembly Democrats, in a separate analysis, say Cuomo's budget would add $828 million in taxes and fees in the coming fiscal year that begins April 1.

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