New Utility Assessments Exemplify Poor Public Policy

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

Beginning this summer, utility bills began to feature a new fee called the “Utility Tax Service Conservation Assessment.” This is now listed on all utility bills. Though a modest fee for most households, it is, nonetheless, another state fee and exists thanks to the budget that passed in the spring. I am urging for the repeal of this assessment to prevent more money from going to our already bloated state budget.

Another tax accompanies the “conservation assessment.” However, it is not listed on consumer bills. Rather, it is reflected in increased rate charges due to increases the state is applying to the utility’s gross intrastate revenues assessment. These taxes are expected to generate $520 million over a five-year period. It’s the single largest tax passed in this year’s budget and is affecting everyone.

These taxes are unfriendly to business and dangerously compliment the Millionaire’s tax that also passed this year. Recent reports have shown how the Millionaire’s Tax might help close budget gaps but deter investors from creating jobs here, which means New York loses in the long run. Together, these practically ensure that the manufacturing sector will continue to struggle and that investors will think twice before coming to our great state. In an era of “economic stimulus,” these types of policy are counterintuitive to what the American Recovery Act was designed to accomplish.

I’m also concerned these utility taxes will unduly force the costs of goods and services up, which is unfair to everyone. Taxing such a basic commodity as heat makes it harder for any kind of business from the hotel service industry, to restaurants, to museums, to repair shops to operate. It is for these reasons that I am sponsoring legislation that repeals both taxes. New Yorkers cannot afford to pay for these extra taxes on a basic commodity and shouldn’t be forced to.

I am urging my colleagues in Albany to make the budget process more open, transparent and fair. Last year’s budget, as I’ve stated in the past, was negotiated again behind closed doors and with three men in a room. It was the primary reason these new fees were put forth to the Legislature and why I voted against the budget. It is up to everyone to make it clear to Albany leaders that another budget process like last year’s cannot be tolerated. With the repeal of such taxes, we can foster more economic growth and improve our state’s public policy.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.