Skelos blasts Cuomo over extending utility tax

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the tax, known as the "18-a" surcharge, was imposed on utilities in 2009 in the aftermath of a stock market meltdown. Photo Credit: Steve Jacobs, 2010

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ALBANY -- The state Legislature's top Republican Tuesday called Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposal to extend a tax on utilities a "new tax" that hurts ratepayers and New York's attempts to lure new businesses.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the tax, known as the "18-a" surcharge, was imposed on utilities in 2009 in the aftermath of a stock market meltdown. It is supposed to expire at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year. He said the fee was imposed to help fund the Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities, but that the charge is no longer needed.

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"This surcharge was supposed to be temporary, and let's keep it that way," Skelos said at a State Capitol news conference, joined by several business lobby groups.

Cuomo's proposal would renew the surcharge for five years. Republicans said doing so would cost businesses and consumers nearly $3 billion, including $236 million in the fiscal year set to begin April 1.

"It's an extension beyond the expiration date," Skelos said of Cuomo's proposal. "So I think that's a new tax."

A Cuomo official said the administration "would be happy to" discuss how to replace the utility-tax revenue in the state budget.The proposal is part of Cuomo's $142.6 billion budget plan. Lawmakers hope to adopt a spending plan by March 21, before the fiscal deadline.

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