Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 01 January 2010 00:00
The final 2009 meeting of the Nassau County Legislature was highlighted with the expected repeal vote of the home energy tax.
That repeal was not met with a veto by outgoing County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi. Instead, Suozzi, last week, said he would leave the executive decision to incoming County Executive Edward I. Mangano. According to published reports, Suozzi said he would have supported an energy tax repeal if it were economically feasible.
The repeal vote took place at the Monday, Dec. 21 meeting. Earlier, the repeal was approved in committee by a 10-9 vote. On the final vote, all eight Republicans in the legislature voted for the repeal. Five Democrats joined them: David Denenberg (D-Merrick), Jeff Toback (D-Oceanside), David Mejias (D-Farmingdale), Joe Scannell (D-Baldwin), and Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn).
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. It was expected to generate $40 million in revenue, all in an attempt to close the county’s $150 million budget gap.
Two Democrats who voted for the repeal, Mejias and Toback, were defeated in their re-election bids in November. When the new legislature convenes in January, the Republicans will hold an 11-8 majority. All this means that Mangano, once sworn in as county executive, will sign the repeal into law. Last week, Mangano declared he would do just that.
“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.”
In June, Legislature Wink voted for the tax. Last week, he voted to repeal it.
“During the depths of our nation’s recession, we were presented with a $130 million projected deficit which needed immediate attention,” Wink said in a statement. “At the time we enacted an unpleasant but necessary sales tax on energy which, combined with landmark labor concessions, dramatic spending cuts, and federal stimulus monies maintained the fiscal integrity of our county. While the energy tax was a small portion of the solution, it was clearly a significant concern for the taxpayers not only in my district but throughout Nassau County.
“Our residents have spoken and I am pleased to have sponsored the ordinance repealing the energy tax, providing some measure of relief to our already burdened taxpayers,” he continued. “This initiative, coupled with my passage of a no-tax increase 2010 budget was intended to acknowledge that all residents of Nassau County are under extreme financial pressure and we in government need to heed their calls for relief in any manner we can provide.
“The incoming County Executive has targeted $40 million worth of spending cuts to offset this loss of revenue and I look forward to working with him to ensure that the county will continue to provide the services that our residents have earned while identifying non-essential spending for elimination,” Wink concluded.
Legislator Jodi Bosworth (D-Great Neck) was one of the five Democratic lawmakers who voted for the tax and also against its repeal.
“[The] energy tax represented one of the options County Executive [Tom] Suozzi proposed to address the current fiscal crisis,” Bosworth told Anton Community Newspapers. “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.”
contributed to this article.