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County sales tax numbers up but New Yorkers still concerned about economic future

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By Mark Scott

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-907188.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Erie County sales tax revenues are up. County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz says the county's share was up by nearly $3 million in April compared to the same month last year.

Higher sales tax numbers mean consumers are shopping and buying. The county's 2010 budget projected a two percent rise in sales tax revenues. Poloncarz says the numbers for the first four months of this year are meeting budget. He says the upward trend is being seeing elsewhere in the state.

That's not surprising to Doug Lonnstrom of the Siena Research Institute. While many upstaters are not too confident about their long-term economic future, Lonnstrom says they are buying.

Still, the latest consumer confidence survey compiled by Siena finds New Yorkers numbers are lagging compared to the nation as a whole. Lonnstrom says there are several reasons for that.

"Consumers remain cautious amidst distant daily talk of the oil spill and European financial chaos," Lonnstrom said. "Closer to home, seesawing Wall Street numbers and gas prices, as well as unemployment worries continue to keep New Yorkers anxious."

Indeed, Lonnstrom says the oil spill may be one reason why New Yorkers say they're concerned about gasoline prices. Even though gas prices dropped in May -- a month in which they traditionally rise -- 51 percent of those questioned in the Siena survey said gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat service impact on their personal finances.