Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Friday, 01 January 2010 00:00
Despite narrowly passing a 2.5 percent home energy tax earlier this year, the Nassau County legislature recently voted 13-5 in favor of repealing it. During a meeting 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 therefore 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 and even coal, propane and firewood.
Republican legislators were opposed to the tax since initially proposed, but earlier this year the 10-member Democratic majority approved it. As a result, Republicans, specifically Mangano, promised elimination of the tax once in office and, as of Jan. 1, the GOP will have an 11-8 majority.
At last week’s meeting, five of the county’s 10 Democrats – Jeff Toback (D-Oceanside) and David Mejias (D-Farmingdale), 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 (16th L.D.), Judi Bosworth (10th L.D.), Kevan Abrahams (1st L.D.), Roger Corbin (2nd L.D.) and Diane Yatauro (18th L.D.), the current presiding officer, however, stuck to their guns and voted against the repeal.
“It was with great reluctance that I voted to impose the energy tax of 2.5 percent at budget time,” said Jacobs. “As a widow, I am fully aware of the serious financial burdens that are weighing heavily on all residents. However, the energy tax was needed to help us to continue to deliver services to residents to protect their health, safety and welfare and care for those who need us in the senior community, the youth community and those in need of social services. Nothing has changed as far as the dire financial circumstances we, along with the rest of the nation, are experiencing right now. I, therefore, voted not to repeal the tax at this time until we know for sure how we can survive the loss of the $39 million it brings into the county budget. I believe the vote was premature and will be frowned upon by Wall Street and affect our credit ratings. I would have been one of the first in line for repeal if someone showed me the alternatives being suggested to replace the loss of revenue. They didn’t so I continue to be fiscally responsible.”
Jacobs added that sometimes the right decision is not always the easy one. “I believe the residents of my District have respected my honesty with them through the years,” she said. “Serious times require difficult and serious decisions and this was one of the most difficult decisions which had to be made for the betterment of the County, as a whole.”
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.
It is believed that some $18 million was generated between June and December and it was anticipated that the energy tax would have generated nearly $40 million in 2010 alone. This much-needed revenue is, according to proponents, why the energy tax remains as necessary today as it was when it was initially proposed.
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,” said Legislator Bosworth. “This measure was one that made our fiscal outlook better in a very challenging fiscal time.”
“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.”
-Denise Nash contributed to this article