Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 01 January 2010 00:00
The highly controversial county home energy tax was repealed by the Nassau County Legislature last Monday, Dec. 22. The bill passed 13 to 5 at the legislature’s meeting. Great Neck’s Legislator Judi Bosworth was one of the five Democratic legislators who voted against rescinding the tax. Legislator Bosworth was joined in her vote by Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, Kevan Abrahams of Hempstead, Judy Jacobs of Woodbury, and Roger Corbin of Westbury.
Those voting for the repeal included five Democratic legislators (Jeff Toback of Oceanside and David Mejias of Farmingdale, who both lost their re-election bids this November), along with re-elected legislators Joseph Scannell, Wayne Wink and Dave Denenberg, and eight Republican legislators. Legislator Edward Mangano, the county executive-elect who currently represents several South Shore and mid-Island communities, was not present for the vote.
Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who lost his re-election bid in November to Legislator Mangano, had introduced the energy tax this past winter, as part of his plan to close the county’s huge budget gap. It was estimated that the tax could bring in $39 million to help close the $150 million budget gap. The tax was to add 2.5 percent to energy-related costs.
The home energy tax, approved by legislature in February and implemented in June, was imposed on all residential home energy sources – including LIPA electric usage, oil, natural gas, steam services and even coal, propane and firewood.
Legislator Bosworth explained that this residential energy source tax would have translated to an additional $50 to $70 a year per household. “This was an emergency measure that was enacted only in response to the decline in county revenue caused by the recent worldwide financial decline,” Legislator Bosworth told the Great Neck Record. She continued, stating: “Stating that people don’t like taxes is stating the obvious. This particular $39 million revenue source is not one people like. I don’t like it either. But when the budget is put together in a down economy with sales tax revenue down 10 percent (each percentage point is the equivalent to $10 million) and adjusted expenses going up, this was a way to enhance the revenue side on a temporary basis.”
Both during the campaign and following his victory, Mr. Mangano called for the energy tax to be repealed. Following the county legislature’s recent vote to rescind the tax, Mr. Mangano stated: “Repealing the energy tax was a Republican initiative and a cornerstone of my campaign … 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.”
Told of the energy tax repeal, Mr. Suozzi told reporters that he would veto the energy tax repeal, which would force the new legislature to vote on the tax once again come 2010.
As for the legislature’s actions, Legislator Bosworth said “The truth is it is not palatable to come up with additional taxes in tight times … however, it was not irresponsible when the Democratic majority did this … I, as well as many of my colleagues, thought of this tax as a temporary measure until the economy turns around.”
At that final 2009 legislative meeting when the energy tax was repealed, Legislator Bosworth stated: “If it was the responsible thing to do some months ago, it is still the responsible thing to do now. It was a necessary and painful step to take in October. There has not been enough of a change in the economy to say it is no longer necessary which is why I am voting against repealing the tax. This measure was one that made our fiscal outlook better in a very challenging fiscal time.”
Additionally, Legislator Bosworth is concerned about negative impacts on county residents given the “huge gap in the 2010 budget” that will be created by a loss of the “much needed $39 million that the energy tax would have generated. “I don’t see how it can be said that you can eliminate this revenue without hurting our most vulnerable residents. My biggest concern was that the community groups who do such important work and have seen their funding cut by the federal and state government will be adversely affected. The people they serve will be negatively impacted. I believe that by making political points, we will end up hurting people.”
Last Monday’s legislative meeting marked the end of the Democrats’ 10-year hold on the majority. Come the new year, the Nassau County Legislature will see a Republican majority, with the Republicans having won 11 seats to the Democrats’ 8 seats.