Shown is the sports clothing store, Neil's Corner Spot in...

Shown is the sports clothing store, Neil's Corner Spot in Albertson. (June 24, 2010) Credit: KEVIN P. COUGHLIN

For some Long Island retailers, talk about ending the 4 percent state sales tax exemption on certain clothing and shoe purchases couldn't come at a worse time, given the economic downturn.

"It's not wonderful for business," said Patricia Kuriga, the owner of Nikki's Dressing Room, a Huntington Station store that sells dresses, gowns, shoes and jewelry for juniors and women. "People are really hesitant to shop right now anyway."

Michael Tucciarone, the general manager of the Albertson-based children's clothing store chain Neil's Corner Spot, said he's not against the tax per se but also worries about the timing

"At a time when consumers need to get as much value for their money as possible, a full sales tax would allow them to buy less merchandise," he said. "I would try to let the economy recover and build up a little steam before you tax it more."

Gov. David A. Paterson and other Democratic state officials are mulling reinstating the 4 percent sales tax on clothing and shoe purchases under $110 to help plug the state's $9.2-billion budget gap, sources have told Newsday. With the current 4 percent state sales tax exemption in force, consumers pay sales tax rates of 4.625 percent on such purchases in Nassau and Suffolk counties. New York City charges no tax on qualifying items because it waives its 4.875 percent tax.

The state sales tax exemption originated in 2000 but was suspended between June 1, 2003, and March 31, 2006. Local retailers fear that bringing the tax back would cost them a tool for drawing in customers.

"It's just another way to stimulate," Tucciarone said of the exemption.

Meanwhile, Kuriga is hoping for the best.

"I hope it doesn't go through," she said.

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