The state Senate on Thursday passed a bill allowing Ulster County to reinstate its 4 percent sales tax, bringing a temporary end to a bitter battle between the county’s executive and a state assemblyman.
The bill, which passed 55-4, will allow Ulster to charge the 4 percent share from February through December. After that, the county would be able to extend the tax another year only if it takes on the full cost of the Safety Net welfare program from its municipalities.
Ulster’s sales-tax rate had been at the center of a months-long struggle between County Executive Mike Hein and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston.
While state law allows counties to charge a 3 percent sales tax, the state Legislature frequently passes two-year “extenders” that allow them to charge an extra percentage point. But Cahill objected to putting a simple extension to a vote in the Assembly, instead pushing the county to take on the Safety Net costs before granting the extension.
The bill also became tangled in a debate over New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to increase taxes on the city’s wealthy to pay for pre-kindergarten costs. According to Capital New York and the New York Daily News, Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, had temporarily blocked the bill from coming to the floor; Klein had previously hinted at blocking “home rule” bills if New York City wasn’t given the ability to increase the income tax.
In a statement Thursday, Klein said the Ulster bill is “an example of the state legislature working with a local government to raise its sales tax to 4 percent in order to address urgent county needs.”
By voting in favor of this legislation, Republicans have made it clear that they are willing to raise taxes when local needs hang in the balance.