Taking a Stand Against Loss of Funds to Snowmobilers

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Marc W. Butler (R,I,C – Newport)
January 29, 2010

While reviewing the governor’s 2010-11 Executive Budget, I had a terrible feeling of déjà vu after the governor, once again, proposed to sweep $1 million from the Snowmobile Trail Development and Maintenance Fund and place it in the state’s General Fund. This gimmick was attempted two years ago in the 2008-09 Enacted Budget, and I actively fought to get the funds back. The original sweep was eventually reinstated after a fierce petition campaign that my colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference and I conducted.

The argument is that the sweep is being made due to excess funds in the snowmobile fund. If that’s the case, I propose that snowmobile registration fees be decreased in order to bring rate relief to snowmobile owners. It was only five years ago that snowmobile registration fees were increased as part of the Snowmobile Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2005. An excess in funds just solidifies my argument that it was not necessary to increase these fees in the first place.

If the governor’s proposal is included in this year’s enacted budget, snowmobile money will be swept into the General Fund to be spent at the state’s discretion, a clear violation of the rights of snowmobilers who agreed to pay this increased registration fee with the expectation that the funds would be used for their benefit. Snowmobilers contribute greatly to our economy, especially in our 117th Assembly District, as we are the home to several tourist attractions that are known for their snowmobile trails, most notably, Old Forge, which has earned the title “The Snowmobile Capital of the East,” so it is crucial that their money is protected.

I can think of no better way to spend excess money in the snowmobile fund than to give the money back to those New Yorkers who have paid into the fund through lower snowmobile registration fees. It is unconscionable to take money that was designated for a specific purpose and use it for something else. The governor should do the right thing and rethink his proposal. If you have any questions or would like more information about the snowmobile fund or any other state issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at either my Johnstown office at (518) 762-6486, or my Herkimer office at (315) 866-1632.