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    Written by: John Ferro

    State lawmakers today began voting on the 2014-15 spending plan, a budget deal which includes $5.25 million in mandate relief for Dutchess County that county leaders say will allow them to repeal the highly unpopular energy tax.

    The additional funding for Dutchess was finalized over the weekend, according to state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-Hudson.

    County legislative Chairman Robert Rolison today said he has begun the process for the full repeal of the county energy tax.

    In December, the Dutchess County Legislature voted 14-10 to remove a sales tax exemption on residential energy sources in order to close a budget gap. The tax went into effect on March 1.

    Rolison and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said the state funding will not make up the $6.4 million the county hoped to reap from the energy tax.

    But both leaders said they will move to find other savings so the tax can be repealed.

    Some of the difference will also be made up by the additional revenue the energy tax raises between March 1 and when it is repealed.

    Neither would provide a timeline, in part because the state budget still had to be approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

    “We don’t know when we will get what and from whom,” Molinaro said. “But we believe the aid secured by Senator Ball and Assemblywoman Barrett will enable us to quickly repeal the sales tax.”

    “We will move as quickly as we can to repeal this,” Rolison said. “As soon as we got word that we were going to have relief … we started gathering information from the state Department of Taxation and Finance.”

    Ball and Barrett, who are both part of their respective house majorities, said they worked together to secure the funding.

    “I am from Pawling and most of my family is there,” Ball said. “And my friends are in Pawling. As soon as this energy tax was passed, my phone started blowing up, whether it was local farmers or my own family, asking what is going on.”

    “We have been hearing from the beginning of the month that everybody has been stressed by energy costs,” Barrett said. “My priority from day one was to bring some relief.” (ARTICLE)