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Legislators Join Together and Repeal Home Energy Tax

Despite narrowly passing a 2.5 percent home energy tax that took effect earlier this year, the Nassau County Legislature last week voted 13-5 in favor of repealing it.

During a meeting on Dec. 21, the 19-member legislature voted 13-5 in favor of eliminating the tax; Republican Nassau County Executive-elect Edward Mangano, who currently represents the 17th District, was not present for the meeting and did not vote.

The home energy tax, approved by the legislature in February and implemented in June, was imposed on all residential home energy sources – including LIPA electric usage, oil, natural gas, steam services, coal, propane and firewood.

When first presented, Republican legislators opposed the tax but the 10-member Democratic majority approved it. As a result, Republicans, including Nassau County Executive-elect Ed Mangano, promised to eliminate the tax once in office and as of Jan. 1, the GOP will have an 11-8 majority.

Legislator Dennis Dunne (R-15th Legislative District) was among the members of the Republican caucus who initially voted against the energy tax and voted for the repeal.

“I was very upset it was imposed to begin with. It’s the wrong time to wage extra taxes on anyone,” he said in an interview with Anton Community Newspapers. “I campaigned on voting to appeal that tax. I fulfilled my promise to the people. We’re here for them, they’re my boss.”

At last week’s meeting, five of the county’s 10 Democrats – Jeff Toback and David Mejias, who both lost their re-election bids this November, along with re-elected legislators Joseph Scannell, Wayne Wink and Dave Denenberg – joined with Republicans and voted in favor of repealing the tax; party mates Judy Jacobs, Judi Bosworth, Kevan Abrahams, Roger Corbin and Diane Yatauro, the current presiding officer, however, stuck to their guns and voted against the repeal.

“Repealing the energy tax was a Republican initiative and a cornerstone of my campaign,” said Mangano. “I intend to stand by the promise to repeal the energy tax and look forward to doing so responsibly. My financial team will address this through a collective and thoughtful process.”

Legislator David Mejias (D-14th Legislative District), who originally voted in favor of the energy tax this year, voted to repeal it this time around.

“Really there were a lot of promises made that weren’t being fulfilled and we wanted to make sure the people got what they voted for,” he said in an interview with Anton Community Newspapers.

Nassau County Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R-13th Legislative District) was opposed to the imposition of an energy tax when it was proposed and said she is pleased the legislature voted to repeal it.

“The voters spoke and we listened,” Gonsalves said, adding that, in her opinion, the tax was unfair and unjust in that it “not only impacted on those who could least afford to pay the 2.5 percent tax on all sources of energy, but to all residents finding it difficult during these economic times to pay their existing taxes and the high cost of living in Nassau.”

Gonsalves assures taxpayers that there are means in which to fill the budget gap without affecting our quality of life. “Nassau must return to the place where we can afford to raise our families and enjoy the quality of life our residents deserve,” she said.

Proponents, however, claimed that the tax was necessary as it would have generated $18 million between June and December 2009 and an additional $40 million in much needed county revenue in 2010.

While Presiding Officer Yatauro could not be reached for comment at press time, Legislator Bosworth told Anton Community Newspapers that “the energy tax represented one of the options County Executive [Tom] Suozzi proposed to address the current fiscal crisis … This was an emergency measure that was enacted only in response to the decline in county revenue caused by the recent worldwide financial decline.”

The legislator added that the energy tax was the responsible thing to do some months ago as was voting against repealing it. “It was a necessary and painful step to take … [but] there has not been enough of a change in the economy to say it is no longer necessary which is why I [voted] against repealing the tax,” Bosworth said. “This measure was one that made our fiscal outlook better in a very challenging fiscal time.”

Rachel Shapiro contributed to this article.