Kudos to the Nassau Democrats who have introduced an amendment to the 2024 proposed operating budget to utilize some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus monies to help provide for some needed property tax relief.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Suffolk, and apparently some Republicans as well, are seeking to increase the county’s sales tax to one of the highest in the nation, even though they sit on unprecedented reserves, thanks to enormous federal funding that flowed into the county coffers after the pandemic.
Now, we recognize that it’s always easier for a party out of power to push for tax cuts. And often those proposals are irresponsible, pandering when the money is not there to do so. But in this case, the Nassau Democrats are absolutely correct in noting that both counties are sitting on record surpluses because of the half a billion dollars in unconditional grants that came from the feds.
There’s a temptation for elected officials to use these monies as slush funds to pay for all their special projects, or to hire more government employees and build on already existing programs. Doling out money garners legislators more friends.
Suffolk County not only received over half a billion dollars in aid from the feds, it then saw hundreds of millions of additional dollars flowing into their coffers due to an economy placed on steroids as the feds doled out thousands of dollars to nearly every family and business throughout the nation.
The spending led to an enormous 18% hike and prices over the last several years, but the local governments have benefited tremendously. Suffolk, which had been rated as the most fiscally stressed county before the pandemic, suddenly found itself awash in more money than it ever had in this history.
So, the question has to be asked: Why not use these hundreds of millions of dollars for the sewers that the lawmakers and environmentalists say are so sorely needed?
And why not look to the present quarter-penny sales tax program that has been around for 40 years? It can be used for the sewer funds as well, rather than raising people’s sales taxes once again. A big chunk of the present quarter-penny sales tax is dedicated to open space. There’s over $45 million flowing into the program annually. While twenty years ago there was a tremendous amount of open space to be purchased, that low-hanging fruit is no longer there. In the last five years, there has been relatively little open space purchased, So, why not face reality and start to redirect at least some of those funds towards sewers? It’s certainly smarter than raising our taxes once again.
The Democrats haven’t been shy about wanting the sales tax increased. But why would Republicans be joining them? Part of it is that they’re scared of the pushback they will get from some of these environmental groups who will say they are anti-environment. But that’s nonsense. We can build sewers without raising taxes.
Other Republicans are being pushed by the unions who want the sales tax increase so there will be more money flowing around in the government for their contracts.
We like the attitude of the Nassau Democrats who say, “Cut taxes.” If only our officials in Suffolk would do the same.