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Franklin County officials lament unsuccessful bed tax bill

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The proposed Franklin County occupancy tax failed to pass the state legislature during the last day of its session on Friday.

“It did not make it to the floor,” said Elizabeth Wolters, legislative director for state Sen. Betty Little, R-45th District.

In the Assembly, Ms. Wolters reported that the bill made it to the calendar, but it was not acted on.

County legislators expect the bill to be reintroduced when the state Senate and Assembly return to session in January.

“It is what it is,” said Chairman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, on Monday. “We’ll try for it again. A lot of good came out of what we’ve done over the last year.”

As an example, Mr. Jones mentioned the Tourism Advisory Committee, which will be handling all county tourism funding and would have handled funding brought in by the bed tax if it was approved. The bed tax money would have been used to implement county tourism and marketing initiatives.

“I don’t believe it’s a tax,” Mr. Jones said. He has said in the past it is more of a tool to fund economic development within the county.

Most counties in New York already have an occupancy tax.

“Franklin County residents are paying that right now, but they are not getting the benefits of it,” Mr. Jones said. “We don’t have the funds returning to us.”

Mr. Jones said the county will most likely have to resubmit the occupancy tax as home rule legislation. The county will not need to go through the whole local law process again since the bed tax has already been established.

Local elected officials weren’t happy with the Legislature’s lack of action.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Malone Supervisor Howard Maneely on Monday, adding that it would have saved county taxpayers from having to shoulder tourism funding.

Hugh Hill, executive director of the Malone Chamber of Commerce and a Malone village trustee, said Monday that he was “saddened” that the occupancy tax bill was not successful.

“We’re looking forward to trying to get it through the next session,” Mr. Hill said.

He said he believes the state legislature didn’t act on the bill because there was a lot of major legislation up for action.

“I just think we got crowded out,” he said.

Mr. Hill said the North Country Regional Economic Development Council supported the bill.

“Their unanimous endorsement of this proposal reassures us that we’re going in the right direction,” he said.

One of those adamantly opposed to the occupancy tax is Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake. Mr. Maroun said Monday that he did not support the bill for two reasons — there was significant opposition within his district and he did not believe the state legislature would pass it.

“I think (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) was clear that he wasn’t going to create any new taxes,” Mr. Maroun said. “It looks like I was right.”

Considering this, Mr. Maroun said he believed submitting an occupancy tax was a waste of the county legislators’ time.

Mr. Maroun said owners of small, older hotels in his district did not want the bed tax.

“These motels are just getting by,” he said.

As for the county resubmitting the bill during the next state legislative session, Mr. Maroun said he does not believe it will pass then either.

“The governor will not change his mind by January,” he said.

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