Following a call of support from several St. Lawrence County municipalities and sports clubs, several St. Lawrence County Republicans are calling on the governor to support the use of universal terrain vehicles.
The group, led by Richie, has written to the governor urging him to amend his state budget proposal to allow UTVs, which are increasingly popular among outdoorsmen—particularly elderly couples and families.
Over the past few months several St. Lawrence County towns have passed resolutions asking for the state to allow registration of the vehicles.
According to Ritchie, New York is losing out on tens of thousands of dollars in state revenue through registration fees, and taxes from retail sales of UTVs, as well as countless tourism-related jobs by prohibiting UTVs which, because they are slightly larger than standard four-wheelers, can exceed outdated weight limits in current law.
St. Lawrence County representatives Sen. Joe Griffo, who represents parts of county including Massena and Potsdam, and Ken Blankenbush, who represents southern parts of the county, also signed the letter.
Ritchie said the letter has support from several Democrats as well.
“UTVs are increasingly popular with senior riders, couples and family members who may want to bring a child with them while enjoying our great outdoors,” the letter says. “Every year, New York State loses sales tax and motor vehicle registrations because of our outmoded definition of all-terrain vehicles in Transportation Law.”
“We want to thank you for your recent efforts to promote upstate tourism, introduce more New Yorkers to outdoor sports like snowmobiling, and introduce the world to our region’s winter wonderland. Adding this commonsense reform to your budget’s 30-day amendments will not only help increase non-tax revenues to the state, but also benefit Upstate’s rural communities and sportsmen.”
The governor is permitted by law to amend his executive budget up to 30 days after its submission to the Legislature. This year, the governor made that presentation on Jan. 21.
During public hearings on the budget this week, Sen. Ritchie pressed both the state Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joe Martens, and state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald to support a change in state law to allow UTVs. Both pledged to study the issue further.
The lawmakers said that the state prohibition is not preventing outdoorsmen from using UTVs—many are simply buying and registering them in other states, like Pennsylvania, where they are permitted.
Four-wheeling is big business. The lawmakers pointed to recent statistics that showed, in New York’s Tug Hill Region alone, the sport helps support 701 local jobs, and is responsible for $11.3 million in wages, and nearly $3 million in local sales, occupancy and other tax revenues.
Sen. Ritchie’s bill, S.1946, has passed the Senate in each of the last three years. Sen. Griffo’s bill, S.3557, has passed the Senate twice.
A copy of the lawmakers’ letter to the governor is attached, and can be viewed at www.ritchie.nysenate.gov.