State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey delivered on her promise to get a bill through the state Assembly that would allow Franklin County to impose an occupancy tax.
The bill would allow the county to impose a 5 percent occupancy tax on overnight guests there. It passed in a 100- to 36-count vote Thursday.
Duprey told the board in January that as much as 10 percent of the tax money could get tied up in the county but the rest would go toward promoting tourism in the county via the newly-formed Tourism Advisory Committee, which would make recommendations to the board of legislators on how the money should be spent.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate and get the governor's approval before the tax can go into effect, something county Legislator and Tupper Lake Mayor Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, said won't happen. He added that it's too late to move the bill forward this year, and he's right - it failed to make it to the Senate floor for a vote, so the earliest that could happen is next year.
"It's the same issue as before," Maroun said. "The Senate Republicans, and the Senate majority and the governor, don't want any new taxes this year. When people can agree that this is going to help localities, even though it's not going to affect us locally with the taxing part of it, without agreement from the governor and the senate, we can't get it."
Maroun has been an outspoken critic of the occupancy tax, saying Cuomo would never support it and that motel and hotel owners in Tupper Lake are against it. On Friday, Maroun told the Enterprise he's had a change of heart.
"I've talked to people on the TAC board, and to people who really want to promote tourism, and they say, 'Paul, number one, it would save the taxpayers in the county about $230,000 a year, and number two, it would bring in about half-a-million dollars,'" Maroun said. "The motels here thought it was going to hurt them, but I don't think it's going to hurt them anymore. If they have people coming in from Rochester, Buffalo or New York City, if they have people going to New York City to visit them, they're going to pay a huge bed tax. I'm going to have to explain to them that this is going to save them overall on their property tax."
Maroun explained that the tax would reduce property taxes and provide much-needed funding to promote tourism throughout the county. He said the county legislators should focus their efforts on convincing Cuomo that the tax would be good for the county.
Franklin County Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said the Assembly vote was an encouraging step toward getting the tax in place since it didn't make it to the floor of the Assembly or the Senate last year.
"We have another hurdle now, we have to get it through the Senate," Jones said. "I think we can get it through there, have the governor sign it, and finally get this thing going. Unfortunately, I think we'll have to wait a little longer. Like most tax bills, it didn't make it to the floor of the Senate this year."
Jones has promoted the tax for the last three years. He applauded Duprey for getting the bill through the Assembly, and said local representatives should continue the push to get it through the Senate.
"It's still important that the chambers, and the business community, that want it and realize the value of it keep advocating for it," Jones said. "It's a tax that Franklin County residents are paying wherever they go in the state, and virtually in the United States, and we are not getting the benefits from that."