On April 18, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino gave residents something to cheer about when he announced a $5 million surplus for 2016. Santino and his administration did an outstanding job of transforming a $23.5 million deficit into a surplus — a nearly $29 million turnaround. Bravo!
In this day and age of grossly excessive spending by government, this is refreshing news. Santino has done more by spending less, and everyone should be taking notes. Immediately after being sworn into office last year, he drastically reduced the number of town employees and available overtime.
Between 2004 and 2016, then Councilman and now Supervisor Santino worked continuously to downsize the town payroll. According to reports, this has saved over $15 million and has created a lean and efficient workforce. In addition, he instituted an early-retirement program that will yield an additional $6.5 million in savings this year, according to the town.
He wisely introduced cost-controlling practices such as limiting part-time employees to 25 hours per week. This will result in $5.2 million in savings, and will also reduce those employees’ work hours by 38 percent.
Sticking to his motto of delivering more with less, Santino directed all town department heads to institute 20 percent across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending. This has forced town managers to implement strategic initiatives and consolidate department functions.
The supervisor is also focusing on alleviating the fiscal stress on our forgotten middle class here on Long Island. Nassau County is one of the highest-taxed regions in the country, and our residents are feeling it — especially young people and senior citizens.
Santino’s resume of proven fiscal success speaks for itself. He has voted for 16 budgets that cut taxes, and has reduced town spending in three budgets in a row. He works arduously to find outside-the-box ways to save money and offer relief to taxpayers.
A good example of this was when he ordered that conventional streetlights be replaced with high-efficiency LED fixtures. Something as simple as this saved the town an estimated $2 million in 2016. Over a 20-year period, the town estimates that this project will net $43.1 million in savings that can be used to streamline municipal operations and enhance efficiency.
This is the type of leadership that is needed not only on Long Island, but at every level of government. Everyone from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to President Donald Trump should be taking notes on what Santino has accomplished in such a short time.
The economy is still the No. 1 concern among Americans, and our middle class is being held hostage while jobs are being exported to foreign soil and pay is stagnant. Trump has expended much of his energy reassuring businesses that they need to invest here in the U.S. He has been successful, but now he must focus on tax reform.
After the disappointment of the attempted health care overhaul, it became clear that Trump and the Republican Party should have first focused on tax reform. At this point it’s unclear what Trump and his team are planning, but we’ve heard rumors of a value-added tax, or a carbon tax, or a reciprocal tax.
A recent op-ed essay in The New York Times, titled “Why Are Republicans Making Tax Reform So Hard?” offered the president some advice: His first tax priority should be to fix the federal corporate and small-business tax system. I couldn’t agree more.
The op-ed highlighted three actions Trump should take immediately. The first would be to cut the maximum federal corporate and small-business tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent. The second would be to allow businesses to deduct the full cost of their capital purchases, including new factories, equipment and machinery. The third would be to impose a small tax on repatriation — foreign profits brought back to the U.S.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree that the current corporate tax system has had a detrimental effect on the economy. The tax code is counterproductive, hurts Americans and costs the government hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue it would receive if American corporations weren’t regularly abandoning the U.S. to set up lower-taxed operations abroad.
If we could bring home the money that’s trapped overseas, we could immediately begin using it to fund infrastructure improvements. That money could build roads, highways, airports and pipelines. This is a no-brainer, and would be a huge accomplishment for the Trump administration. President Clinton said it best — “It’s the economy, stupid” — so let’s not overthink this.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.