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Government Affairs Update - January 31, 2003

Governor Pataki Proposes 2003-04 Budget

Our staff has compiled a detailed summary – by issue area – of Governor Pataki's proposed 2003-2004 budget. The entire budget documents, including press releases and summaries, can be found at the home page of the NYS Division of Budget.

Railroad Tax Packaged Approved by Governor

Governor George E. Pataki announced on January 31st that he has signed the Rail Infrastructure Investment Act of 2002 into law. This legislation has been a key platform of The Business Council and its Transportation Committee. This measure will spur economic growth and job-creation across the State, with a specific emphasis on Upstate New York. The measure has been proposed by the Governor for the past two years, and will reduce the tax burden on railroads in New York State by approximately 45 percent. The Rail Infrastructure Investment Act of 2002 will reduce local property taxes on railroad companies that own property in New York State. Historically, property taxes on railroads, specifically in Upstate New York, have stymied railroad expansion and rail service preservation -- a key factor in creating and retaining jobs. The initiative will simplify and modernize the method of assessing rail properties for local taxation and exempt all new capital improvement projects that have been approved by the New York State Department of Transportation from property taxation for ten years from the date of completion. The plan will phase in a tax reduction of approximately 45 percent over seven years for transportation properties currently owned by railroad companies, and ensure that the rail companies commit additional resources to make substantial enhancements in freight and passenger services, including greater safety, expanded access, and higher speed. Finally, the proposal will establish a transition aid program, which will provide a total of $70 million over ten years to local governments to cushion their revenue loss, beginning with $4.7 million in 2003-04.