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Legislature repeals energy tax

Opponents say repeal could impact services

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The much-maligned county tax on home energy has been rescinded. A bill to repeal the tax passed by a vote of 13-5 at Monday’s session of the Nassau County Legislature.

During their election campaigns, most Republicans railed against the Democrats for passing the bill 10-9 in June. The measure added 2.5 percent to the cost of electricity, natural gas, home heating oil, propane and firewood.

Eight Republicans and five Democrats voted for the repeal on Monday. Legislator Ed Mangano, the county executive-elect, was not present during the vote.

Some Democrats floated the bill to repeal in Dec. 7 sessions of the Finance and Rules committees. The move was initially chastised by Republicans, who questioned Democrats’ motives.

The repeal vote was a highlight of Monday’s 33-page agenda, in the final Legislative session of a 10-year reign by Democrats. Republicans, expected to be led by current Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, will take an 11-8 majority in January.

Outgoing County Executive Tom Suozzi introduced the energy tax in February as part of a multi-pronged approach to closing an anticipated $150 million budget gap in Nassau County. The tax would generate about $40 million, Suozzi said. Though it adds 2.5 percent to energy-related costs, opponents claim it effectively raises property taxes by 4 percent.

Five Democratic legislators went against their colleagues and voted against the repeal — Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, Kevan Abrahams of Hempstead, Judy Jacobs of Woodbury, Roger Corbin of Westbury and Judi Bosworth of Great Neck.

Difficult economic conditions and a lack of revenue to make up for the tax could impact important services for residents, said Corbin, who will be replaced in January by fellow Westbury Democrat Robert Troiano. “I think this is a big mistake,” Corbin said.

Legislator Francis X. Becker disagreed with Corbin. "This tax hurt the minority community worse than anyone else in Nassau," he said. "I'm shocked to see my colleagues would not vote for [the repeal].”

The repeal will not go into effect until next June. Democratic Legislator David Denenberg of Merrick said that while health and human services could be in jeopardy, that time frame should “give time for the county executive-elect to make adjustments to the budget.” Joining Denenberg in voting for the repeal were Democratic colleagues Jeff Toback of Oceanside, David Mejias of Farmingdale, Joe Scannell of Baldwin and Wayne Wink of Roslyn.

Both Toback and Mejias lost to their Republican opponents in November.

Schmitt said the Democrats made a mistake when they approved the tax in June. Residents “said enough, and they will not stand for a home energy tax,” the GOP leader added. “I’m delighted to see you’ve seen the light of day.”

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