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Bigger tax and fee collections make it the Empire state of taxation

Getting a driver's license or car tags. Picking up a hunting or fishing license. Registering your boat. Buying a bottle of water.

For millions of New Yorkers, those and other tasks will be more expensive starting later this year.

The recently approved state budget includes a couple of dozen increases in fees, surcharges, taxes and assessments — even a new, 5-cent deposit on bottled water.

Three Democrats from the Big Apple crafted the budget largely out of public view — Gov. David A. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith.

The officials say the revenue from the new fees and taxes — estimated at $8.3 billion — is needed to close the massive budget gap created by the ongoing economic crisis.

But many taxpayers and local officials say the state hasn't done enough to cut costs before imposing higher fees and surcharges on New Yorkers.

"Motorists in Erie County are already hit too hard with high gas prices and more tolls than any other upstate community, and we need a break," said Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul. "And hitting motorists with increased fees, I believe, is wrong."

The higher fees were imposed from Albany, but workers in municipal offices across the state will bear the brunt of public ire once the new fees kick in, Niagara County Clerk Wayne F. Jagow said.

"Wherever you're turning you're going to be hit with an additional fee," Jagow said.

Taxpayers are filling the airwaves, the Web and the letters' pages of newspapers with their frustration.

Are the higher fees a reasonable attempt to deal with a severe budget deficit, or an example of Albany's indifference to taxpayers?

— Stephen T. Watson and Sandra Tan

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