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Taxes for state land

A lawsuit filed by a town supervisor in western New Yorks Chautauqua County against the governor, the state legislature, its leaders, and the state comptroller claimed some New York municipalities receive state tax payments and/or payments in lieu of taxes for state owned land in their respective communities while other communities do not receive these payments. On Nov. 14, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker agreed. Walker wrote The Constitution does not prohibit dual tax rates or require that all taxpayers be treated the same. It requires only that those similarly situated be treated uniformly. One can only guess that Justice Walker must have realized the far reaching effects of this decision because he stayed his own ruling. Attorney General Cuomo is expected to appeal the decision. I applaud the counties I represent for filing Amicus Curie briefs with the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division. It doesnt take rocket science to figure out how this ruling, if upheld, would affect the towns, counties, schools and taxpayers in both the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Some of the communities I represent are 90 percent state owned land! The original law permitting the state to pay taxes on state Forest Preserve lands dates back to 1886. The justification for that law pointed out the benefits of preservation of forest lands for all the people of New York State. I have consulted with Assembly staff attorneys regarding this case, and they agree that sound rationale was given by the state for paying taxes on land in both the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. I believe these benefits still exist today, and that the appeal will ultimately affirm the legitimacy of continuing that practice on Forest Preserve lands. While I am an optimist, I am not a gambler! I am asking the governor and DEC Commissioner Grannis to place a moratorium on any further land purchases in either the Adirondack or the Catskill Parks until this issue is resolved in the courts. I am also working with my colleague, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, 98th AD, to draft legislation that will protect the intent of the 1886 law in the event the appeal is unfavorable. I am both shocked and surprised to read that the Adirondack Council is advocating the purchase of more than 70,000 acres of timberland in the northwestern Adirondack Park at this particular time. Before any more land is purchased we must be sure the state will uphold the promise they made back in 1886 to the people who live and work in both the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Anything less is unacceptable!

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