Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Once More, With Feeling

Anthony Picente's battle to give Oneida County one of the highest tax burdens in the state, and hence the nation, continues.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said Tuesday state representatives will likely support his proposal to reduce the county sales tax to 8.75 percent.

Once again, Mr. Picente is not reducing the county sales tax. The "emergency", "short-term" sales tax increase that was passed back in 2005 ends on November 30, 2007. By law, it's over. Done. Finished.

What Mr. Picente wants to do is pass another sales tax increase that takes effect on December 1, 2007. Yes, it's at a slightly lower rate than the tax we have now, but it is most assuredly a new tax. Tellingly, you'll note that he isn't even bothering to characterize it as a short-term measure.

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, the former county executive who implemented the 9 percent sales tax, will support the new legislation, said Ryan Nobles, director of communications and research for Griffo's office.

"After reviewing the information provided in (Tuesday) morning's meeting, the senator is prepared to honor home rule legislation once the requisite paperwork is provided," Nobles said.

He would not comment further.

Picente also said Griffo was committed to helping get the bill passed.

Mr. Griffo doesn't really have a choice in the matter, since a refusal would bring into question his own rationale for passing the original tax. The best thing he can do right now is keep his head down and hope the spatter from the soon-to-erupt crapstorm over the county's abysmal finances doesn't splash him too badly. I think that's an empty hope, to say the least. He's done more than enough to claim his fair share of credit for the tax hike already.

State Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, who also was present at one of the Tuesday meetings, said she does not have a position at this point and is still reviewing the information Picente gave her.

An optimist could take this as a sign that maybe, just maybe the Democrats have decided to put some chips on the table after all. Mr. Picente has tried to bluster his way through the tax hike like an enraged bull, debuting the idea publicly for the first time last Thursday and immediately demanding that representatives decide on the issue within a week. That's a classic example of governance by crisis and he deserves to be called on it.

Picente said state representatives seemed to understand the need to change the tax rate to 8.75 percent, rather than let it drop to the scheduled 8 percent.

Er..but I thought Mr. Picente was reducing the sales tax? Looks like someone forgot the narrative. Heh.

He said the county can't afford to lose the millions of dollars in revenue that would result from dropping the rate lower.

"I really don't understand what the alternative is," he said. "I think they recognize the significance of having the tax."

Well, perhaps Mr. Picente could enlighten the rest of us as to what's actually going on. Up to this point he's been remarkably vague about what, if any, efforts he's undertaken to cut county government. I'd feel a lot more comfortable with his tax jihad if he'd taken the time to explain why there's not another dollar to cut from the county budget. One almost gets the impression he hasn't even bothered to try.

Update: Picente was supposed to address the county legislature about the tax hike at 2PM, but as of yet there isn't any word about what was discussed.