By Joan Gaylord
Mount Pleasant officials learned last week that Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed the legislation that would have allowed the town to impose a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on the town’s lodging facility.
Though no reason was provided by the governor’s office the action set off a flurry of finger-pointing in Mount Pleasant. Some officials accused the governor of denying the town a critical revenue source while others saw most of the board culpable for failing to provide the proper level of support for the tax. Cuomo also vetoed similar bills passed by other municipalities throughout the state in the waning days of 2019.
A resolution approved by the Mount Pleasant Town Board early last year would have added a 3 percent tax to the rate for hotel rooms within the town’s borders, revenue that would have gone directly into the town’s coffers. Currently, there is one hotel within the municipality, Comfort Inn & Suites on Route 9A in Hawthorne, with a second one planned as part of the North 60 development.
A press release distributed by Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi’s office last Friday and posted to the town’s Facebook page stated that the bill had received unanimous support from Town Board members when they passed the resolution last year.
Fulgenzi said he plans to re-introduce the hotel tax bill again this year and hopes his board colleagues will support the measure. Should the Town Board approve a new resolution in the coming months, state Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) has already said that he would work to move it through the Senate.
While support on last year’s Town Board for the tax was unanimous, a comment on the town’s Facebook page from former Democratic councilwoman Francesca Hagadus-McHale recounted how she had moved the bill for approval but it took about 30 seconds for another board member to second the motion and that action was taken “reluctantly.”
During last fall’s Town Board election, the state Republican Committee had used Hagadus-McHale’s support of the tax as part of an inflammatory mailer distributed to local voters. The mailing charged that she supported “raising taxes.”
In her Facebook comment, Hagadus-McHale stated that the new hotel tax was the only time she had supported a new tax in her year on the board. Hagadus-McHale lost the election to her Republican challengers Jerry Schulman and Danielle Zaino.
Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D-Pleasantville) said he had sponsored the bill in the Assembly in 2018 and again last year but was unable to get push it through the legislature without the support of former senator Terrence Murphy, a Republican. Murphy had philosophically been opposed to virtually all tax increases, Abinanti said.
With the election of Harckham, they had worked to bring the bill to a vote. Abinanti said he has not discussed the veto with Cuomo. However, Abinanti spoke of how the Republicans want the extra revenue but refuse to support the hotel occupancy tax in public. He said that they “sabotaged” the effort.
“Republicans want to have it both ways,” Abinanti said. “They are being duplicitous and that is bad public policy.”
Fulgenzi said last week that Murphy was against all taxes. However, he said Murphy saw this tax differently as it would not be imposed on Mount Pleasant residents.
When asked about the campaign mailer, Fulgenzi maintained that it was produced by the state Republican committee, not the local committee.
“Everything in that postcard was factual,” Fulgenzi said of Hagadus-McHale’s support for new taxes before conceding that the entire board had supported the measure.
Harckham said Cuomo had not signed any hotel tax bills that had passed the legislature in 2019.
Harckham said if the Town Board wants to approve the resolution again, he would return to Albany this session looking to get it done.
“I was disappointed,” Harckham said. “This really would have helped the Mount Pleasant.”
This isn’t the first time that controversy has followed Mount Pleasant’s attempts to get the hotel occupancy tax enacted. In 2016, the town passed a resolution asking that the tax be approved by the legislature for them. At that time eight other Westchester communities were approved for the hotel tax but the Mount Pleasant resolution never came up for a signing by Cuomo because it didn’t make it to the Senate floor after passing the Assembly.