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Village of AsharokenThe small but powerful Village of Asharoken


For Immediate Release, March 18, 2009

Contact: 631-261-4151



A Legislative Column by Andrew Raia (R,I,C-East Northport)


The announcement last week that Governor Paterson will suspend his initial plan to create or increase $1.3 billion in “nuisance” taxes and fees is welcome news for middle-class families on Long Island. These tax hikes would have come at precisely the wrong time for those of us hit hard by a combination of falling home prices, dwindling incomes, and extra-large debt repayments. High taxes do two things: they depress consumer spending, and they kill jobs by forcing businesses out of the state. Paterson’s thoughtless tax plan would have raised the state’s 7.2 percent unemployment rate to double-digit levels, leading to more of the home-mortgage defaults which largely contributed to the financial meltdown in the first place. Still, despite their budget vanishing act, taxes were not the only headache in store for hard-working Long Islanders.


The governor’s $121 billion budget still contains billions of dollars in cuts for services Long Islanders use every day. Governor Paterson’s euphemistically titled “General Fund Gap Closure Plan” would remove $2.6 billion in Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state; $1.9 billion in vital school aid to improve the quality of learning for students here in the 9th Assembly District and offset ever-higher property taxes in our region; and permanently do away with the Middle Class STAR Program, a property-tax rebate which has benefited countless families by returning a portion of their tax bill back to them. By losing these investments in our community, Governor Paterson is telling local towns and cities on Long Island to close hospitals, fire more teachers or cover the high costs of these state services entirely on their own. Paterson and his New York City-dominated cabinet talk a great deal about “shared sacrifice,” but the facts speak for themselves. Long Island’s tax dollars are sloshed around the state to pay for community centers upstate, hospital beds in Brooklyn, and brownfield-development in Buffalo. Yet the state leaves Suffolk and Nassau counties with a greater share of local costs than any of these areas, despite Long Islanders’ tax-dollar largesse.


According to the Assembly Republican Ways and Means Committee, in 2006-07, the most recent years that data is available, Long Islanders paid over 67 percent for their combined services, or $6.2 billion. Most of that amount was paid through property and sales taxes, a dubious revenue source since they can’t be capped under current law and sales taxes are the most regressive form of taxation available. That 67.39 percent figure is also more than a quarter of the entire population of upstate New York’s (including Westchester and Rockland) financing. Governor Paterson’s budget plan would see Long Islanders paying even more for less – less education, less health care, less tax relief. When middle-class families are ailing, cuts could mean the difference between keeping one’s home and joining the army of foreclosure statistics and hard-hit investors we’re all too familiar with.


School aid for Long Island would be cut by about 12 percent, or $147,189,000 under Governor Paterson’s proposal. Every one of Suffolk county’s 65 school districts would be affected. If enacted, the school-aid reduction on Long Island would be the largest combined cut of any of New York’s 18 most populous counties. These cuts would include everything from kindergarten to after-school computer classes to special education. It would also mean fewer quality teachers attracted to our districts, and larger class sizes for our children. These are education cuts Long Islanders just can’t afford.


In the ongoing budget debates, I have made these and other Long Island priorities known. A $121 billion budget which requires our taxpayers to fund projects in every far flung corner of New York State while being subjected to drastic cuts in their own communities is no way to run a government. Long Islanders are some of the most innovative, industrious people in the country, producing more than their share of taxes and prosperity for the Empire State. We ought to honor our investments in their neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and nursing-home facilities. Instead, Governor Paterson has short-changed us. It’s time to stand up to this outrage and fight for our region’s funding. Governor, don’t cut Long Island out of the budget.