ďDuring our gathering today, I again called on Governor Paterson to convene public Legislative Leadersí meetings to break the budget impasse and for the Majorities in both houses to begin following the law by convening Conference Committees to get a spending plan done. I also urged the Governor to move forward with the collection of hundreds of millions in taxes on cigarettes and gasoline sold on Native American lands to non-Native American Indians. With a $9.05 billion budget deficit, it makes absolutely no sense for state government to continue allowing this revenue to go uncollected.
New Yorkís budget is now 48 days past due and there is still no plan or clear way forward offered by either of the Majorities. Our Conference has repeatedly called for timetables and an open, transparent process, while offering specific cost-saving proposals to close the budget deficit to the Governor and both Majority Conferences. We have received no response to our budget ideas.
Simply doing nothing or allowing another 48 days to go by without having a State Budget in place is unacceptable. Our Assembly Minority Conference is ready to go and ready to act.Ē
Governor Paterson: Assemblyman Kolb, what are your views on the budget as it stands now, the one we would pass today?
Leader Kolb: First of all, on the budget you submitted, that we cannot agree with a billion dollars in new taxes, regardless of where they have come from. Having said that, what you have said, where would you make up for that shortfall if you donít have those taxes in place? Thatís why we specifically gave your budget people a list of things to choose or to look at including, which is one of the things, which is one of the things I would love to really get resolved one way or another this year, is are we going to collect sales taxes on non-Native American sales on cigarettes and gasoline, yes or no and Iím not asking you to answer that one right this second.
Governor Paterson: Actually, Assemblyman, I want to answer you right now. I have discontinued the forbearance policy that existed for about twelve years. I discontinued it last year. We are in the process, in fact, we are completing the process of establishing the regulations. We have legislation that, if the legislature passes, could allow us to start collecting the taxes. I do have to make you aware that about three weeks ago there was a decision in a federal case involving the Cayugaís that says you can assess the taxes but you canít collect them. We donít know what that means.
Leader Kolb: I have looked at that decision or at least the information provided to us, right now there is a bill in both houses of the legislature, Bill Magee is sponsoring it in the Assembly, and I think Jeff Klein and Liz Kruger introduced it, Carl Kruger, sorry, introduced a bill dealing with the whole coupon issue.
Governor Paterson: That would get us around it.
Leader Kolb: Well, not get us around it, would actually implement it.
Governor Paterson: Right.
Leader Kolb: And so Iíve been told, and I donít know if this is true because, this is what Iíd like to know, if we had more of these meetings we could sort this stuff out, is that Iíve been told that the, the second floor would not support this legislation. Will you have your people get us an answer, whether you support this legislation, so we can get the bills passed in both houses of the legislature, get it done, get it signed, and start collecting taxes? And this isnít just about tax revenue, this is about people that are losing their properties in Cayuga and Seneca counties.
Governor Paterson: No, no Assemblyman, the reason why we need to collect the taxes doesnít need to be restated, this is why you and I are having this conversation. Now, Director Megna says to me that we have given an alternative to the legislation that we think is lawful. We think the original legislation is in variance with what the current federal court decisions have been.
Leader Kolb: : Youíre talking about the Magee bill?
Governor Paterson: Right.
Governor Paterson: But our current alternative would satisfy what we perceive to be the state of the current law but also would empower us to begin the collections.
Leader Kolb: Because if we do that andÖ
Governor Paterson: Could you look at that, because we could pass that today.
Leader Kolb: All Iím concerned about is getting it passed and then we could say, how much could we collect this year? Whether itís $100 million or $200 million between now and next March, whatever that number is, that may save a program, that could pay for parks, that could do any of those things.
Governor Paterson: The number you just threw on the table, I think, is close to what is really valid as opposed to people who just multiply cigarettes by people and come up with these incredible numbers. But youíre absolutely right. That is why I discontinued the forbearance policy, which I hope you appreciate.
Leader Kolb: I understand. We have got to get it resolved and then figure out if we are going to pick up any revenues and how much. At least we have an answer on that issue.
Governor Paterson: We have a piece of legislation on the table. I recommend to all of you to look at it. If you pass it, we will be a lot closer than we are now. We are not sure that we are on solid ground particularly in light of that decision.