Local officials oppose GOP tax bill
Just before 2 a.m. on Dec. 2, members of the Senate narrowly approved sweeping tax reform legislation in a 51-49 vote. The bill approved by the Senate differs from the version House Republicans passed in November. In the Senate version, the estate tax will not be abolished, tax brackets differ slightly and other amendments, hand-written in the margins, were made in the hours before the vote.
Last week, ahead of the Senate vote, Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), Peter King (R-NY-2) and Tom Suozzi (D-NY-3) were joined by state and local officials and area businesses at the Internal Revenue Service in Hauppauge for a press conference highlighting their concerns with the current version of the GOP tax reform plan and outlining ways to improve the legislation.
The bill passed the House in a 227-205 vote, with no Democratic support and both Long Island GOP congressmen opposed.
“While I like many aspects of this tax reform plan, too many Long Islanders would not see the tax relief they desperately need and deserve,” Zeldin said after the press conference. “This fight is not over. I look forward to continuing negotiations to improve this proposal for my constituents. If I’m not fighting for my home state and my home district, I cannot expect another member of Congress from some other state to do that for me.”
James Skidmore, general manager and co-owner of Toast Coffeehouse in Patchogue and president of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, also attended the press conference. “I am always pleased when our political parties are working together,” he said. “As chamber president and a small business owner, this tax plan hinders our opportunity to pay a fair wage and expand and grow our businesses. Both opportunities are necessary to improve the quality of life for all Long Islanders.”
King noted that eliminating deductions would hurt working families all over Long Island. “We give far more to Washington then we get back. For every dollar we give, we get 79 cents back. That’s a $48 billion shortfall and hurts our middle-class Long Islanders,” he said.
The legislation, especially the elimination of state and local tax deductions, would be “catastrophic” for Long Islanders, according to County Executive Steve Bellone. Last week, he published a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to block the legislation, citing concerns over rising taxes for middle-class families.
In the letter, Bellone cites the Long Island Association, a business organization, suggesting that the bill could result in a cumulative tax increase of $4.4 billion on Long Island. “These middle-class and working-class families cannot and should not be asked to shoulder an even larger federal tax burden in order to subsidize tax cuts in other parts of the country,” he says in the letter.
In a conference call with reporters Monday morning, Bellone noted that Long Island is already a “donor region” to the country, and the idea of taking a tax hit to subsidize a tax cut for other communities is unacceptable.
But the bill becoming law would mark the first legislative victory of Trump’s presidency. Republicans are now racing towards a deadline of having the bill on Trump’s desk by Christmas. Bellone slammed the frenzy surrounding the bill’s passage — something Democrats were criticized for when the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. “[Long Island] wants to see more economic investment and growth, but this is not the way to do it, rushing through a bill at breakneck speed,” Bellone said.
According to Bellone, the tax reform bill will negatively impact median home values — which are already higher than the rest of the country — and will ultimately result in a drop in consumer spending and an uptick in people leaving the region, a figure that has been on the decline since 2013. “The negative impacts [of the bill] are potentially deep and far-reaching,” he said.
Bellone acknowledged that inequity exists even on a state level when it comes to taxes and Long Islanders.
A December 2011 study by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government shows that “New York City and the downstate suburbs give far more to Albany in revenues than they get in state-funded expenditures.” For example, data from fiscal year 2010 shows that the downstate suburbs closest to New York City paid 27.4 percent in taxes, and received 21.7 percent in state expenditures. Upstate New York, however, saw far greater returns than taxes paid. “We’re always pushing to get more resources and more dollars back to Long Island, but right now the focus is something completely unconscionable coming from our national government,” Bellone said. The impact on local economies, home values, consumer spending and small businesses “runs contrary to everything we’re trying to do as a region,” he said, on initiatives such as economic growth and retaining young people as residents and taxpayers.
Bellone remains hopeful that the president will take a stand for his “home” region. “As a native New Yorker, you understand better than most people in Washington that what is considered middle class in Madison or Louisville is not the same as in Medford or Melville,” Bellone advised Trump in his letter.
The bill will now either head to conference, where negotiators in both chambers will work out differences in the bill, or be approved by Congress and head straight for the president’s desk. No additional information was available by press time.
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