Opinion

New York State Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R, C, I - East Meadow) would like to inform senior citizen constituents about a great program that will help prepare their tax returns for free! Hempstead Town's VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program will provide help in preparing the federal and state income tax return for senior citizens.

"During these harsh economic times it is important to make sure taxpayers are awarded the full amount of refunds they are entitled to," stated McKevitt.

Presented with the help of the Department of Senior Enrichment's volunteer tax assistants, this free program will allow seniors an easier way to filing taxes. According to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, participating seniors must bring "a record of 2008 Stimulus Payment, last year's tax return (2007), all wage and earnings statements (W-2 and 1099), all interest, dividend and pension statements, 2008 property tax receipts, STAR exemption records, 1040 Booklet, NYS Booklet, IT 214 Booklet (if applicable), Social Security card and photo identification."

According to McKevitt, the volunteers are well-trained individuals who are happy to help and assist senior citizens. They will be located at the following locations where you may set up an appointment to work with a volunteer:

• Merrick Senior Center, 2550 Clubhouse Road, Merrick. Wednesday, April 8 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Call 868-4777 for appointment.

• Uniondale-Merrick Senior Center, 750 Jerusalem Avenue, Uniondale on Tuesday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 538-5050 for appointment.

• Wantagh Public Library, 3285 Park Avenue, Wantagh on Thursday, April 9 from noon to 3 p.m. First-come, first-served. Call 221-1200 for information.

"Take advantage of this great opportunity to work one-on-one with these volunteers," said McKevitt.

New York State Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R, C, I - East Meadow) stood with his colleagues in the minority conferences of the Assembly and Senate to voice concern over the closed-door budget meetings between the three leaders in state government. To date, there have yet to be budget resolutions or joint budget conference committees that would shed some light on the budget process.

"Frankly, the current budget process is disenfranchising to the 19 million residents of New York who deserve transparency in the budget process. We are facing a $16.2 billion deficit and to have the 'three men in a room' close the door and craft a budget in the dark is inexcusable. The days may be getting longer, but it is pitch black in the hallways of the Capitol," said McKevitt.

It also has been widely speculated that Governor Paterson will deliver a "message of necessity" to the Assembly and Senate, which would waive the constitutional requirement that budget bills age three days before they can be voted on. This process enables legislation to be voted on immediately. This will make it virtually impossible for legislators to read and review budget bills before they vote on them.

"It is flat-out shameful the governor would deliver a message of necessity to enable a vote on budget bills that are thousands of pages long without even getting the chance to read the bills," said McKevitt. "The three-day aging process was designed to prevent this type of political maneuvering that blatantly undermines democracy. The 19 million residents of our state deserve better."

The 2009-2010 state budget has officially been passed, and it can only be summed up as a complete disaster to the 19 million residents of New York State. At a time when our state was facing a $16.2 billion budget deficit, the governor, assembly speaker, and senate majority leader introduced a budget that increases spending by $10.5 billion - nearly 10 percent more than last year.

"When families are already finding it difficult to make ends meet, the fact that the 'three men in a room' would introduce such a bloated budget is inexcusable. We face hard economic times that are forcing families to cut back on spending and tighten their belts. People are struggling and the only notable achievement that came out of this budget in the Assembly is that it was passed on time," said McKevitt.

But meeting the April 1 deadline is inconsequential if the immediate and long-term effects are damaging. For example, absent from the budget is the STAR rebate program, which provided some relief to Long Island homeowners who pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Additionally, there is no property tax relief in the budget, such as a tax cap or circuit breaker, which means property taxes will continue to soar out of control.

This budget also includes $2.3 billion in cuts to health care. That's questionable when you consider the budget includes a $1 billion slush fund for Governor Paterson, and $325 million in additional aid to New York City.

SUNY and CUNY students are also targeted in this budget, as there will be another tuition increase this year. Despite this tuition hike, only 20 percent will actually go into classrooms. The other 80 percent will be diverted into the state's general fund. College students are essentially being taxed to make up the State's shortfalls.

"This budget is a disservice to New York residents. It spends too much, taxes too much and reforms too little. I voted 'no!' for this entire budget, and I applaud my colleagues who had the courage to do the same," McKevitt said.

"There are special groups of individuals whom we must take the time to recognize for their outstanding achievements and selfless acts. The American Red Cross of Nassau County is an organization dedicated to helping the lives of Nassau residents. Since 1917 the Nassau Red Cross has helped community members in times of need, disaster, and provided comfort to those with very little," stated McKevitt.

According to the assemblyman, it is important to take time and acknowledge the American Red Cross and thank them for providing their support and hard efforts in making the lives of those less fortunate better. The Nassau Red Cross continues to make Long Island a safer place through its lifesaving programs and abundance of volunteers. The Red Cross Network is comprised of 96 percent of volunteers. These men and women have given so graciously to fellow community members and should be commended for their great accomplishments.

Their duties go above and beyond to fellow community members. The Nassau Red Cross has been responsible for alerting our service men and women of vital information about events at home, whether it a death in the family or the birth of a baby. The Red Cross also provides financial assistance to bring service members home on emergency leave. These services were provided to nearly 400 service members with Nassau County roots, last year.

It is also important to realize that the American Red Cross is a non-profit agency and relies on contributions from the public to perform its services. All Long Islanders should take the opportunity to learn more about their local Red Cross chapter and how they can help this great organization. The American Red Cross in Nassau County is located at 195 Willis Avenue in Mineola. For more information about the Nassau Red Cross visit www.nassauredcross.org, or call 747-3500.

"The Nassau Red Cross is a tremendous organization that allows community members to feel safer and to provide assurance to those in need. I applaud their efforts and encourage all other residents to become involved with the Nassau Red Cross," McKevitt said. "It is important that we as a community unite together and provide support for all families and friends."


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