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Hoyt Questions Sales Tax Increase

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A State Supreme Court Judge is expected to render a decision sometime this week on the fate of Erie County's beleaguered 2005 budget. But there are looming questions about the viability of that budget, even if the Judge lets it stand.

The 2005 budget relies on a projected $108 million dollars from that elusive extra penny of sales tax revenue. But the added sales tax was only tentatively approved by lawmakers during the controversial budget process. Since then, two of the ten lawmakers needed to approve the deal now say they may not go along.

The Legislature is expected to vote Thursday, officially asking for the home rule message. But the uncertainty doesn't stop at he county line. State approval is also needed. And State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is also having second thoughts.

"Typically, with a home rule message, both houses of the State Legislature will sign off on it," Hoyt said. "I'm not convinced that raising the sales tax in Erie County is the solution to our problems. I'm not convinced that simply raising taxes is the way to solve our problems."

Hoyt says he's also not convinced that Buffalo would get it's fair share. Under the sharing plan approved by the County Legislature, Buffalo would receive about six million of the extra revenue. Hoyt sees that as a lousy cut.

"We're talking about $120 million in new revenues on top of the temporary eighth cent," Hoyt said. "And $6 million (for Buffalo) is simply not enough. And so, I have great reservations and real reluctance to vote in favor of such a proposal."

But County and State lawmakers could all have the matter taken out of their hands. The pending Supreme Court Decision could halt the entire budget. County budget officials warn of dire financial consequences -- short and long term -- if the sales tax measure fails anywhere between here and Albany.