Tax relief for homeowners battling ash borer gains momentum in Albany


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It can be heartbreaking to watch a big beautiful ash tree slowly die over the years, after it has been infested by the emerald ash borer beetle (EAB), then spend as much $2,000 to have a dead tree removed.

Paying thousands of dollars to have a dead tree cut down can be a hardship for some homeowners, but if they wait, and their big tree gets uprooted in bad weather, the resulting damage can wreak more havoc.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy is leading the charge in Albany to give homeowners a brake with their ash trees–a tax credit of half the cost of removing an infested tree, up to $300 per tree. Homeowners who choose to fight the beetle, by treating their trees, would also get credit for half the cost, up to $100 per tree.

Kennedy estimates the impact of the measure, called TREE (Tree Removal and Emerald Ash Borer Elimination) Tax Credit would cost the state treasury about $25 million, but the Buffalo lawmaker says it would be money well spent.

“I believe when you are looking at a $160 billion-plus budget, that is a very, very smart way to make an investment in our environment.”

Kennedy announced his bill is gaining momentum at a Thursday morning news conference in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Buffalo. Announcing her support for the measure was Lancaster Town Supervisor Johanna Coleman, “I know we have lived through Dutch Elm Disease decades ago, and now it seems as though the Emerald Ash Borer is our latest enemy to our conservation effort.”

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy has undertaken a vaccination program for some its ash trees, and Olmsted Forestry Manager Adam Kneis said the treatments seem to be working. “We have treated roughly 200 trees. We have been doing that for years, now, and those tress are currently healthy in areas where trees are completely dead, or have already been removed.”

Officials estimate there are 900 million ash trees in the State of New York alone, and about one in every 5 trees in Erie County is an ash. The destructive beetle has already laid millions of trees, across the Northeastern United States, to waste.

Tonawanda Town Supervisor Joseph Emminger, said it is encouraging to see state lawmakers want to help homeowners, “We are not going to solve this problem overnight. It is going to be something that is going to take a multi-prong approach. I am sure this is going to go a long way to assisting residents in easing some of their burdens.”

Sen. Kennedy said he is encouraged by the growing support for his TREE Tax Credit, that 8 Western New York communities are on board, including Buffalo, and 6 of Erie County’s 7 largest towns.

Kennedy added his Senate measure now has a companion bill in the State Assembly, and they are pushing hard to get it passed before the end of the session.

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