Desperation has a hand in county exec's race

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No, we’re no longer in 2009. The housing market isn’t in a free fall, but home prices aren’t exactly soaring. People are no longer terrified of losing their jobs, but they remain concerned about job security.

Moreover, they worry about their rapidly eroding spending power. Too many middle-class workers, including county employees, haven’t seen their wages rise by any measurable degree since the recession. Meanwhile, inflation has crept up each year, meaning people have less ability to spend than they did four years ago, despite a rebounding economy. A county property-tax increase would further eat away at stagnant household incomes.

The New York Times began its Nov. 6 story on the Nassau and Westchester county executive elections this way: “Two of the wealthiest counties in the nation, both with voters worried about property tax increases, decided in Tuesday’s elections to stick with Republican county executives who held the line on taxes …”

The trouble is this: Remove the sprawling mansions on our famed North Shore and the luxury homes that line a number of our South Shore bays and canals, and Nassau is a county of small, middle-class hamlets and villages, with pockets of poverty throughout.

On Long Island, a family of four needs $94,567 a year to meet its basic necessities, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington. Too many families, however, fall short of that mark. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Nassau County’s median household income is $93,214.

While Nassau is often thought of as a rich Republican county that loathes taxes, it isn’t. It’s a county of people on the edge who are trying hard to make ends meet in a very expensive place.

Yes, in many, if not most, parts of the country, $93,214 is a boatload of money. But here the average 1,650-square-foot split-level goes for $350,000 to $400,000, which, depending on the size of your down payment and tax burden, means a monthly mortgage payment of between $2,500 and $3,000. That’s a lot of money when your household income is less than $100,000 a year.
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