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Taxes, fees in Andrew Cuomo budget draw criticism

The conservative think tank Reclaim New York pans a proposed tax on opioids and expansion of taxes on online purchases.

Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir, seen

Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir, seen here on Oct. 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

A conservative think tank called on New York State lawmakers Monday to strip $1 billion in tax and fee increases from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget.

Reclaim New York’s executive director Brandon Muir said at a news conference in Hauppauge that the proposed budget would increase the cost of living by expanding sales tax collections on online purchases to raise $75 million and instituting a health insurance “windfall profit tax” to raise $140 million and a $127 million tax on opioids.

“Gov. Cuomo calls these ‘revenue enhancers.’ It sounds like a joke, but people actually have to pay these revenue enhancers to the government,” Muir said outside the H. Lee Dennison building.

The Cuomo administration defended the new taxes as targeted to specific industries — pharmaceuticals, which it said contributes to the state’s opioid epidemic, and health insurers that are seeing a windfall from federal corporate tax cuts.

And expansion of online tax collections would level the playing field between brick and mortar stores and online retailers that don’t collect sales tax, said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Budget Division.

“We’re protecting retailers in your neighborhood from being undercut on price by making sure taxes are applied consistently across the board,” Peters said in an email.

Muir called the proposed opioid tax, “the most disgusting tax” because it would increase the cost of painkillers, while earmarking only a portion of the revenues for drug and alcohol treatment.

The proposed surcharge — $.02 per milligram prescribed — would be imposed on opioid manufacturers if they are headquartered in New York and, if not, on distributors. Drugstores would be exempt.

Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), said he agreed with Reclaim New York.

“Hardworking Long Island taxpayers pay more than enough already,” Reif said.

A vote on the Senate’s budget is likely Wednesday, although the deadline for a final budget is April 1.

At the news conference, Barry Cowen, owner of a Farmingdale pump manufacturer, criticized the state’s business climate.

“It’s very difficult being in the worst state in the country,” he said.

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