Governor's Ski Tax Falls Flat

James L. Seward

February 20, 2009

WINDHAM, 02/20/09 – State Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I-Oneonta) and Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R/C/I-Schoharie) today called on the governor to eliminate his higher tax on ski areas.

“The budget proposed by Governor Paterson is filled with $6 billion in new taxes and fees that will strike at the heart of upstate New York businesses and families,” said Seward. “The additional 4 percent hike on ski lift tickets and lessons unfairly targets an industry already battling a tough economy.”

"The proposed sales tax on our resorts will only accelerate the flight of our families and businesses from our state," said Assemblyman Pete Lopez. "All of us must send the message that New York can only grow its economy by cutting taxes and regulations - not by piling on more."

Seward added, “It is also important to point out that this tax will not apply to the New York State owned and operated ski resorts, giving them further advantage over privately owned and operated resorts. We need to make it easier for private businesses to operate, not throw up additional state roadblocks.”

The governor’s ski tax will increase the cost of the sport and hurt the many school programs offered by New York state resorts. Many of these programs are priced at a level that is affordable to children. Last year over 500,000 children learned to ski and ride in New York.

"New York is home to 47 ski resorts, more than any other state in the nation,” said Scott Brandi, president, Ski Areas of New York. “Our resorts provide recreational opportunities for families throughout our state. We also play a critical role in the economy of upstate New York. New York's ski areas have a $1.1 billion economic impact in upstate New York during the winter months when we need it the most. The proposed tax will cripple our industry and take away the growth and momentum we have been working so hard to develop over the last few years.”

“The ski business provides healthy outdoor activity for the whole family at a time of the year when it is needed most,” said Tim Woods, president and general manager of Windham Mountain. “A lift ticket tax will give skiers and snowboarders in our market one more reason to forego a trip to the mountains.”

"This new tax will make competing in the current economy even more difficult, especially because most of our competitors, including those operated by the state of New York, will not be collecting this tax," added Russell Coloton, Jr., president Hunter Mountain.

In 2008 Senator Seward authored legislation calling for a state panel to evaluate whether governmentally-owned recreational facilities constitute unfair competition to ski, golf, camping and other recreation businesses owned by private entrepreneurs. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support and was passed in both the senate and assembly, only to be vetoed by Governor Paterson.

The Town of Hunter Chamber of Commerce recently passed a resolution protesting the governor’s tax on ski areas. In a letter to Governor Paterson, Chamber President Michael McCrary writes, “The tax would be counterproductive for the community as it would almost certainly result in a decrease in overall spending by visiting skiers with an attendant decrease in sales tax.”

The skiing industry employs 18,000 New Yorkers and in the winter months is the economic engine that drives tourism in upstate New York

New York enjoys the fifth most skier visits in the nation, just behind Utah, Vermont, California and Colorado. Over 4,000,000 skier visits will occur in New York state in 2009.

“No one ever taxed his way out of an economic crisis,” Seward concluded. “Bless him, the governor wants to be the first.”