Suffolk Executive Excoriates G.O.P. Tax Reform

Call the White House, sign the online petition opposing the Republican tax legislation, which the Senate passed shortly before 2 a.m. on Saturday, and appeal to President Trump’s New York roots to get him to recognize how devastating it would be for Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said on Monday.

Expressing vociferous criticism of the so-called tax-reform measure, he said it would be “a potential catastrophe,” amounting to a multibillion-dollar tax increase for Long Islanders, driving down property values, and resulting in residents fleeing the region.

 The process, he noted, had moved “at breakneck pace, this so-called reform happening extraordinarily rapidly” with virtually no debate in Congress and last-minute, handwritten revisions added to win over skeptical Republican legislators. 

The public, Mr. Bellone said, does not fully understand the plan’s potential impact on Long Island, particularly the reduction or elimination of deductions for state and local property taxes. “But one thing that seems very consistent is that we’re looking at what could amount to a massive tax increase on Long Islanders in the billions of dollars that would have an . . . impact on our economy, on home values, on consumer spending, on small businesses.” 

The plan, he said, “runs contrary to everything we’re trying to do to become more competitive . . . to make the kinds of investments necessary for us to reach our economic potential. This would be a huge blow to all of those efforts and to middle-class families across the region.”

New York State sends about $23 billion more to the federal government in taxes than is returned, Mr. Bellone said, and the tax plan, should it become law, would add insult to injury.

“What are we talking about here?” he asked. Should the bill become law, “Long Islanders are now going to be, in addition, subsidizing a tax cut for communities across the country while we take a tax hit. . . . It is unconscionable, in our view, and must be stopped.”

When the sweeping rewrite of tax policy first appeared on his radar in the spring, the expectation, Mr. Bellone said, was that it was “so bad for Long Island and New York, and other areas as well, that this can’t . . . ultimately be adopted.” Now, with the legislation seemingly destined for President Trump’s signature before Christmas, the focus must turn to the Queens native, he said. 

“We make this appeal understanding that the president is a New Yorker, that he understands this region. . . . We believe he would understand that being a middle-class family on Long Island is far different than being middle class in Madison, Wisconsin, or Louisville, Kentucky.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan group, has estimated the bill would add $1 trillion to the national debt, even after taking into consideration the economic stimulus Republican officials say would be generated by tax cuts. Congressional Democrats are warning that Republicans would seek to lower the debt by cutting or eliminating entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. 

Mr. Bellone echoed those warnings on Monday. “If this is used as a pretext to cut Social Security and Medicare, that would be absolutely disgraceful because that would be an even greater hit to middle-class families, working-class families across Long Island.”

But, he said, “There is still time for the president to intervene on this legislation before Congress adopts it, and obviously, if they produce legislation that is really going to have this catastrophic or devastating impact on Long Island, the president has the opportunity to veto.” 

With no significant legislation passed in Mr. Trump’s first year, a veto is seen as highly unlikely. One reason for optimism, he said, is that “the president does seem to pay attention when . . . he’s made aware of things in the media, and I’m hopeful that if we gather enough attention, enough noise, this will get on his radar. Secondly, he is a New Yorker. That appeal to his pride and home is something we hope will bear fruit. We don’t know, but we certainly have to do everything we can to raise awareness, to urge the president to do the right thing here.” 

Mr. Bellone launched the online petition at a press conference in Hauppauge, where he was joined by Legislator Bridget Fleming, DuWayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature, Matt Cohen, vice president of the Long Island Association, Laureen Harris, president of the Association for a Better Long Island, Gina Coletti, co-chairwoman of the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers, and a group of small-business owners. The petition is at the website change.org. “We’re encouraging as many as possible to sign that,” he said.