Last Fall, this column warned Long Islanders that giving control of the state Senate to New York City-centric Democrats could come back to haunt taxpayers as was the case the last time Democrats controlled that body and slammed Long Islanders with a devastating MTA payroll tax.
In an unprecedented flurry of legislation passed in the session’s first weeks, the Democrats were basking in their newfound power. There were positive steps such as voting reform but the Dems overreached by doing high fives after codifying ninth-month abortions and killing 25,000 Amazon jobs that would pay well over six figures.
Less noticed nationwide, yet still devastating to Long Island, was the Long Island Senate Democrats’ failure to link a permanent 2 percent tax cap to the goodies they voted for on behalf of city legislators.
After the newly elected bloc of Long Island senators bragged how they were not going to make the same mistakes as the Senate class of 2009, they highlighted their lack of experience and savvy by naively going along with the many requests made by the City’s liberal contingent in the Assembly without tying those votes to the Assembly’s support for the tax cap proposal. In other words, they unilaterally disarmed by failing to utilize the only leverage they had.
It’s very possible they just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Why, asked Newsday, didn’t these newly minted senators demand that the Assembly first vote for the tax permanency bill before the Senate approved the Assembly’s pet projects, including modifying the teacher evaluation program and granting tuition breaks for illegal alien students?
The newly elected Democratic senators from Long Island, who shifted the balance of power in the state’s higher chamber, were anxious to show they learned from the 2009 debacle and would this time put Long Island first. So, they made it clear that tax cap permanency would be Long Island’s number-one priority, just as numerous taxpayer advocates, including the Long Island Association, requested.
Additional hope was provided by the fact that the new Senate leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, hailed from high-tax Westchester, which also appreciates the value of the cap. It’s one thing to make such an amateurish rookie mistake on trivial matters, but to do so on their self-proclaimed top priority is pitiful.
To be fair, from a non-partisan perspective, these Democrats did no worse than their Republican counterparts who had controlled the Senate previously. Last year, taxpayer groups pleaded with the Long Island Senate leaders to hold off passing a budget until the Assembly passed the tax cap permanency bill. What was the response of those Republicans to this simple but necessary request: Crickets. And they wonder why they lost the Senate.
Let’s hope the freshman bloc from Long Island can recuperate and live up to their assertions of putting Long Island first. If they don’t deliver on this, they’ll suffer the same fate come next election as did the 2009 bunch that subordinated the Island’s interests to the City’s power bloc.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a state assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.”