After the overwhelming success of our two other week-long sales-tax "vacations" +- one last January and one last September +- the coming sales-tax free week will no doubt be met with enthusiasm by both consumers and retailers. Those "vacations" have proven that, without the burden of the sales tax, New Yorkers prefer shopping in the city. During our tax-free weeks, even the owners of businesses that do not sell apparel have reported increased sales.
For too long, New Yorkers have been forced to live with this regressive tax. It has put New York City's retailers and shoppers at a major disadvantage to their competitors in our surrounding areas, draining an estimated $700 million in clothing sales from the city's businesses every year, and over $3 billion in total economic activity.
That is not the only way this tax has hurt the city. The sales tax on clothing penalizes middle and low income New Yorkers in particular, who must devote a much higher percentage of their incomes to buying clothing than others +- up to 12 percent per year for our poorest families. It fits the very definition of a regressive tax.
Over the past four years, we have worked hard to make Albany recognize the unfair burden this tax places on our families and businesses. As a result of our advocacy and the success of the week-long reductions, we have already convinced Albany to drop the tax entirely for clothing purchases $100 and under, not including footwear, beginning in 1999.
I want to thank Governor Pataki and Assembly Speaker Silver for understanding our position and supporting this sales tax reduction and others.
But now it is time to do more. To make a real and lasting difference, we must end the tax for good for all clothing purchases under $500, including footwear. That is why I will urge the state legislature to make this change in their next session and, in the process, free New York City from a burden that has weighed us down for far too long.
Until that time comes, enjoy the week of sales-tax free shopping.