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Proposed state tax cap angers local officials

QUEENSBURY - Gov. David Paterson's tax cap proposal which would freeze the state's property tax payments on state-owned land at the 2008 levels regardless of assessed value - incited angry reactions from county officials at the Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting Friday.

The county leaders said that if adopted, the loss of revenue would financially devastate Adirondack municipalities, many of which are comprised of over 50 percent state-owned land.

"This act is nothing short of criminal," Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said . "The state is supposedly broke, yet they continue to buy land and they can't even afford to pay the taxes on it."

The amount of state-owned land has been a catalyst for local municipal outrage for decades. It remains the crux of the argument that Adirondack citizens are under attack from outside forces who would like to see the park void of human habitation.

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"This issue highlights the contradictory nature of current state policy," said state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) in a recent phone interview. "Enough is enough - the state needs to allow growth and needs to pay their share of taxes to the local governments."

Little said that if adopted, the proposed tax cap would cripple Adirondack towns like Henrietta which is over 95 percent state owned. Most of the revenue generated in towns like Henrietta is a result of the state paying taxes on the property within the municipality.

In Warren County, hardest hit would be towns in the northern portion, including Thurman, Stony Creek, Johnsburg, Horicon, Chester and Hague. In Hague, Stony Creek and Thurman, the state owns over half the land.

"This tax cap would cost Warren County approximately $200,000 next year alone," county Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said. "This proposal constitutes a second hit to residents in the park in the last year," he said in reference to the recently adopted APA zoning changes.

Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley claimed that the state isn't now even paying their fair share of the tax burden.

"The state owns 25 percent of our land, but they're paying only 1 percent of of the taxes collected in town," he said.

State officials argue that the property tax cap is necessary in order to reduce the cost of government expenditures.

At present, approximately 50 percent of the 6 million acre park is state owned. Gov. Paterson's proposed 2009 state budget has $205 million earmarked for further land acquisition and preservation.

Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this article.

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