Suffolk’s 10 towns are right to ask for a portion of the proposed internet sales tax now being considered in Albany. As conceived in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2020 budget, some of the money generated would flow to New York’s counties, but how and where it would be spent remains unclear. The governor’s office estimates that a statewide online sales tax would bring in about $390 million in its first year. East End officials in particular should demand our fair share.
Unlike the majority of counties in New York State, Suffolk does not have a revenue-sharing plan with local municipalities. This has led to a perceived imbalance, in which the bulk of county receipts are spent UpIsland, where the greater portion of the population lives and works. State officials have punted on the issue, saying it is up to the individual counties to act.
The East End has long seemed shorted by the rest of Suffolk. This is seen in many ways, including the county’s 3 percent hotel tax, much of which is generated in East Hampton Town but little of which is spent here. The East End towns have fought continual battles to see some of the money they contribute for county policing returned since the Suffolk Police Department is only occasionally called to the two forks.
It is unfortunate that so much online commerce has gone untaxed for as long as it has. Not only has the convenience of one-click shopping for everything from groceries to fine art drawn customers away from brick and mortar stores, but lower prices made possible in part by not collecting sales tax have further shifted retail to the internet. Even if modest, a tax could help return a small degree of balance.