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Residents, elected officials respond to GOP tax plan


As she stood in her house on Prospect Avenue, Lynn Mulato said she was shocked to learn that as a homeowner paying already high taxes in East Rockaway for 28 years, she might now pay even more because of new federal tax legislation.

“Obviously, we’re not happy about it,” Mulato said.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would, local elected officials said, hit high-tax suburban regions such as Long Island hard by limiting or eliminating deductions for property taxes, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes. Much of the rest of the country could see modest cuts in their federal taxes, according to elected officials.

The Senate released its own tax plan earlier this month, following a week of debate over the House bill, which was approved by a 227-to-205 vote on Nov. 16. The Senate is seeking to pass its bill after Thanksgiving.

“They’re chasing the younger people off of Long Island,” Mulato said. “It’s too expensive to live here with these taxes as it is.”

Steve Marrandino, who said he has lived in Lynbrook for 25 years, also expressed his frustration with the measure. “This will kill Long Island,” he said. “No school budget will ever pass again. We can’t afford the government operating like they do now. This could not be worse for all of us.”

An East Rockaway resident who declined to give her name, said she was very unhappy with the proposed legislation. “We’re going to lose a lot of deductions,” she said. “How are we supposed to live here?”

U.S. Reps. Peter King, of Seaford, and Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, were among 13 Republicans who voted against the House bill. Before the vote, King, who has supported President Trump on a number of issues, said he would not support the GOP’s tax legislation that eliminated deductions for property taxes and state and local taxes, noting that those deductions have been in place since 1913. 

“While I strongly believe our tax code needs to be reformed and simplified, everything must be done to ensure property tax and state income tax deductions are preserved,” King said. “No one should be taxed again on money you have already been taxed on at the state level.”

At a meeting of Lynbrook village officials Monday night, the board of trustees unanimously approved a motion by Mayor Alan Beach to send a letter to King and the state’s Conference of Mayors denouncing the legislation. “Be it resolved that the Incorporated Village of Lynbrook expresses its strong opposition to any federal tax reform legislation that would eliminate or limit access to the state and local tax deduction,” the letter concludes, “and urges each member of New York’s congressional delegation to vehemently oppose any such bill.”

All 192 Democrats in the House opposed the measure, including Rep. Kathleen Rice, of Garden City, whose 4th Congressional District encompasses East Rockaway and Lynbrook.

“Representative Rice voted no on the House Republican bill because it would raise taxes on many middle-class families in our district to pay for a huge tax cut for the wealthy and big corporations,” said Coleman Lamb, Rice’s communication director. “Half of our constituents deduct state and local taxes. This bill eliminates that deduction for individuals and families, but lets corporations keep it. It adds trillions to the deficit, which will lead to cuts to health care, education, Social Security and other programs that hardworking Americans depend on.”

Lamb said that Rice would work to defeat the bill and continue to demand bipartisan tax reform that would put the middle class first.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, of Long Beach, also spoke out against the legislation. “The Long Islanders I represent feel completely sold out by this tax plan,” Kaminsky said. “Hardworking middle class families are at the brink, and I fear that any additional tax increase will push them over the edge. I have communicated my very strong thoughts to our representatives in Washington that this plan is unacceptable.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released its analysis of the legislation. According to the CBO, the House plan would add roughly $1.7 trillion to the U.S. debt over 10 years, after which debt would nearly equal the nation’s gross domestic product, according to a letter to Congress by CBO Director Keith Hall.

The Senate plan was still being analyzed at press time.

Both bills would keep tax exemptions for employer-sponsored health plans and retirement savings accounts, said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center at the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The House bill would repeal most of the state and local tax deductions, but retain a limited deduction of $10,000 for property taxes. The Senate bill would scrap the deductions entirely. The House bill would impose new caps on mortgage interest deductions, while the Senate bill would end them. The House bill would end the deduction for medical expenses, while the Senate bill would retain it, Gleckman said.

Both bills would cut corporate income tax rates and tax rates on pass-through businesses, such as partnerships, from 35 percent to as low as 20 percent.

The standard deduction for average tax filers would be doubled, but itemized deductions, such as those for property taxes and mortgage interest, would be limited or eliminated, Gleckman noted.

The tax cuts “would primarily benefit businesses and high-income households,” he said.

The two tax plans will be debated and modified in the coming weeks, before a unified bill can be agreed on and sent to President Trump’s desk for signing. Trump made tax reform, in particular simplifying the tax code, a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and is banking on passing legislation this year to bolster his declining poll numbers, according to a number of pundits.

In the meantime, many local residents are bracing for the possibility of having to pay even more to live here. “This bill is like squeezing blood from a stone,” said East Rockaway resident Jonathan Meneses. “As a potential new homeowner, I’m concerned with any tax deductions being removed or changed that would affect us and our ability to afford to live in the area.”

Jeff Bessen contributed to this story.