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Cuomo's visit reignites the debate over raising the sales tax

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Cuomo's visit reignites the debate over raising the sales tax
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Tuesday's visit to the North Country by Governor Andrew Cuomo has re-ignited the debate over whether St. Lawrence County should raise the sales tax there. The move would require an act by the state legislature. YNN's Barry Wygel spoke with local leaders to find out where the proposal stands in Albany.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- It's been a topic of conversation for months, but after Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the area Tuesday, talks have begun again about raising the St. Lawrence County sales tax.

"Matters like that, I respect the locality and I respect the local legislators, so if it's passed, I'll sign it," said Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday.

But in order to get to the governor's desk, it must be passed by the state legislature, where opinions are mixed on the issue.

"I've already got a bill in that would allow a number of the counties to do what they all requested. The essence of this bill is that it gives them the ability to raise the tax, but they have to get the approval of the population," said State Senator Joe Griffo.

But people only want the sales tax increase to go through if it achieves its desired effect, which is to lower property taxes.

In a statement, the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce said, “Unless we bring some revenue into this county, we’re all in trouble and a sales tax hike is preferable to any more property tax increases.”

But there is some opposition in Albany.

"I'm not in favor of tax increases. I think the county should be looking at ways to cut spending," said State Senator Patty Ritchie.

Even Senator Griffo, who proposed the bill to allow the increase, says there must be assurances that the county will use the new revenue for its intended use.

"Even though things are being done to alleviate the burden on them, they are still having these problems, so I believe there needs to be an audit by the state comptroller of the county," said Griffo.

The county, which imposed a 14 percent property tax hike on its residents this year, says it has been losing money due to a decreasing fund balance and lost gaming revenue.

Senator Betty Little, who now represents part of St. Lawrence County due to redistricting, says she has sponsored this legislation for other counties before and would be willing to do it again.

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