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New taxes and fees in governor's budget irk Republicans

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking in Syracuse Monday

The leader of the Senate Republicans said he’s not happy with what he said is over $800 million in new taxes and fees tucked away in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new state budget.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he’s upset over about new proposed fees that a preliminary analysis shows total $803 million – with $250 million in new Department of Motor Vehicles fees alone.

Flanagan said he’s also not happy with the way Cuomo presented his spending plan to lawmakers. He said Cuomo failed to mention all of the new fees in a private briefing at the executive mansion.

“I’m not going to dance around it, I was very surprised,” Flanagan said. “When you tell me there’s basically nothing and then there’s $250 million in fees, that’s important for the public to know.”

The fees and other revenue-raisers include increases for motor vehicle titles for cars and trucks, capping STAR property tax rebates, and new taxes on e-cigarettes. Flanagan said those new taxes and fees will balloon to $4.5 billion a year in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

A spokesman for Cuomo said the Senate’s numbers are misleading.

Rich Azzopardi said the $803 million includes the extension of the so-called millionaires’ tax, which is worth just under $700 million. A top tax rate of 8 percent would continue, instead of being reduced to about 6 percent later this year.

“The Senate Republicans’ ‘new tax’ is an extension of the millionaires’ tax and they’re saying they would rather give a tax break to millionaires than a tax cut to the middle class and increase education funding,” Azzopardi said. “We say New York’s children and middle class matter and should come before the Senate Republicans’ millionaires.”

Cuomo gave three speeches Monday in Plattsburgh, Syracuse and Niagara Falls. He did not take any questions, but repeated large portions of his State of the State and budget messages, including his call for the extension of the tax on the rich. Cuomo said it would finance middle-class tax cuts approved by the governor and state Legislature last year and help pay for a billion-dollar increase in school aid.

“I want to extend that tax so the millionaire tax rate doesn’t drop and use that money in part to fund the middle-class tax cut,” Cuomo said in Syracuse.

Flanagan said he realizes that the governor will expect senators to come up with alternative ways to cut costs if they ultimately reject any of the new taxes and fees, including the millionaires’ tax. He said the Senate may have some ideas in its one house budget plan, to be released in a few weeks.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.