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POV: Lessons from Irene and Lee

Along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, I have introduced legislation to temporarily suspend sales taxes on essentials for victims of Irene and recent incidences of flooding in New York State.

The sales tax credits are for moving expenses (i.e., renting a truck, placing belongings in storage) and for replacing appliances, clothing, furnaces, sump pumps, air conditioners, vehicles and re-construction materials that were damaged by flooding.

Eligible recipients must reside in or own a business in any New York county declared a federal disaster area and must show proof that they are a flood victim by being certified by an insurer or government official. This tax credit would be applicable to individuals’ or businesses’ 2011 and 2012 income taxes.

Sen. Hugh Farley has introduced this measure in the Senate.

The state stands to earn a windfall in sales tax revenue from all the thousands of New Yorkers who must rebuild their lives. This is money that was not anticipated and would never have been part of the state coffers, therefore, the state should not profit off the backs of the victims of these disasters.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin and I have also called on state and federal leaders to provide meaningful relief to flood victims by giving first-time home-owner status and benefits to storm victims who lost their homes.

Currently, first-time home buyers have a variety of federal and state programs and services available to help them afford a house.

Better Neighborhoods, Inc. currently has four homes in Schenectady that, if first-time buyer rules were waived, could be available for eligible flood victims.

Along with insurance, FEMA and state aid, and the Governor’s appliance rebate program, these solutions are part of a holistic approach to help rebuild affected communities. We also need to enable homeowners who’ve lost their homes to be re-assessed, as originally proposed by Assemblyman George Amedore, which I and many others support, since their properties are worth much less than before the storms hit, yet are still liable for the same hefty property tax bills as if nothing ever happened.

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