Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 25 September 2009 00:00
Armed with petitions containing over 50,000 signatures of Nassau County residents, the Republican caucus of the Nassau County Legislature, led by Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, plans on calling for the repeal of the Home Energy Tax, which is being imposed on consumers to help the county close a budget deficit, if Republicans are successful in reclaiming the Nassau County Legislature on Election Day this November.
The tax calls for an additional 2.5 percent on the purchase of all residential home energy sources including LIPA electric usage, oil, natural gas, coal, propane and firewood. It was a measure that was requested by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and approved by the 10 Democratic members of the Nassau County Legislature to close a projected deficit in the county’s budget. The tax is expected to raise $18 million from June to December of this year and another $40 million in 2010.
The tax was approved in February and took effect on March 1. The Republican caucus leader called the measure a “regressive, hidden tax” that will affect everybody in Nassau County. “As times get tough, you can choose not to go out to dinner as often as you might have; you can choose not to take a vacation this year, but you can’t choose not to run your refrigerator or not to heat your house when your children are sleeping upstairs. This tax is unfair,” said Schmitt.
Suozzi announced that he would be proposing a budget calling for no tax increase for the 2010 budget. “In these tough times, we can’t afford to pay more taxes. So that’s why I held the line on county taxes in next year’s county budget,” said Suozzi.
Schmitt, however, believes Suozzi’s “no tax increase” budget for 2010 is “disingenuous” because of the Home Energy Tax, which he said amounts to a tax on all property owners. “According to [Nassau County’s] Independent Budget Office, this Home Energy Tax represents another 4.5 percent increase in property taxes. This has to stop. We are committed to repealing this tax as the first action of the new session of the County Legislature,” he said.
The Republicans plan on taking back the Nassau County Legislature from the Democratic caucus, which holds a 10-9 majority, this November and then repealing the tax.
However, a repeal of the tax may find the county unable to close its budget deficit. Schmitt suggested that the county could cut spending by eliminating what he called “patronage jobs.” Schmitt also said the county has a broken assessment system that is costing the county $100 million a year.
Suozzi would disagree, pointing out that the county workforce is 1,000 people lower than it was when he took office in 2002. “As a result, we have reorganized, restructured and re-engineered county government. We continue to make Nassau County government more efficient to do the work necessary to serve the public with less staff. We have no choice,” he said.
The county executive also said he would love to get rid of the tax, but the money is needed for the budget. The Republican caucus of the Legislature, he maintains, hasn’t given him one concrete proposal to add revenue or cut expenses in the budget.