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Republican lawmakers push bill to pay taxes on closed state prisons

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  • Staff Report 

Two Republican state Assembly members have introduced legislation to provide financial support to communities affected by prison closures. State Assemblyman Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, and Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, have proposed a bill that would require the state to pay property taxes on closed correctional facilities.

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According to Simpson, the tax payments would help offset the economic impact of lost jobs and commerce when a correctional facility is closed and remains vacant. The state would be required to pay local government, school, and special district taxes based on the facility’s assessed value from the time of closing until either the property is transferred to a private owner or the state reuses it for another purpose.

Simpson stated that the state does not pay property taxes on correctional facilities that are in use, which is understandable when there is a benefit. However, the state should stabilize the economy of a community when a correctional facility closes, he added. The legislation, which Simpson introduced on Monday, has 12 Assembly cosponsors, all Republicans, as of Wednesday. Stec introduced companion legislation in the state Senate.

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Currently, there are about 30 closed correctional facilities that are vacant in the state, with the Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Wilton, Moreau, and Corinth being one of them. The facility has remained unused since its closure in 2014. Moreau Supervisor Todd Kusnierz said that the concept of the legislation is sound, but it might be more realistic to push the state to pay a “host fee” to be negotiated with towns in lieu of taxes. The Moriah Shock Correctional Facility in Essex County, closed in March 2022, also remains unused.

Simpson said that the legislation is intended to encourage the state to find new uses for closed correctional facilities and also to exercise more forethought before closing facilities in the future. Stec added that the state has a poor track record of closing these facilities and walking away from them. He hopes that the legislation will motivate the state to take action.

The proposed legislation would compensate communities affected by prison closures, which would be a significant step in mitigating the economic impact of lost jobs and commerce. The bill’s introduction reflects the need to ensure that communities are supported when correctional facilities are closed, and the state should take responsibility for stabilizing the economy of these areas.

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