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Flanagan: Cuomo tucked $800M fee/tax hikes in proposed budget

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has scattered more than $800 million in increased taxes and fees in his proposed state budget — an amount more significant than he originally portrayed, according to Senate Republicans.

The Cuomo administration disputed the Republicans’ depiction.

Cuomo, when unveiling his $162 billion proposed spending plan last week, said it contained just one motor-vehicle fee hike. But a closer look shows the Democrats’ plan calls for higher fees on automobile titles and cigars; new taxes on “e-cigarettes,” vapor products and certain pre-paid mobile telephones; and a $250 tuition hike at the State University of New York’s four-year colleges.

All told, Cuomo is proposing about $803 million in fee/tax hikes, according to a Senate Republican analysis issued Monday.

“I’m not going to dance around it,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) told reporters Monday. “When you tell me there’s basically nothing and then there’s $250 million in new (motor vehicle) fees, that’s important for the public to know and it’s important for it to be part of the discussion.”

Flanagan apparently was referring to the motor-vehicle fee hikes over several years when he mentioned $250 million because raising the price of a certificate of title is expected to generate about $74 million in the first year; taxes related to the proposed legalization of ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber would generate $16 million.

The cigar tax would generate $12 million annually.

A Cuomo aide countered that the bulk of the tax actions in the governor’s plan is covered by the renewal of the “millionaires’ tax,” a surcharge on high earners (an extension the governor said is needed to fund the budget) and that Republicans were misrepresenting the volume of proposed fee hikes.

“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,” Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi said in an email. “We say New York’s children and middle class matter and should come before the Senate Republicans’ millionaires.”

Flanagan, after addressing a convention of county clerks, didn’t vow to block any of Cuomo’s proposals, but said they be under the microscope. Previously, Flanagan said he’d oppose the “millionaires’ tax,” an income-tax surcharge applied to those earning $1 million or more annually.

Lawmakers are supposed to approve a budget by the April 1, the start of the state’s 2017-18 fiscal year.

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