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LI cost of living at 'alarming' levels, report shows

According to anti-tax think tank, Reclaim New York,

According to anti-tax think tank, Reclaim New York, of Manhattan, suburbanites in Long Island make more but have less at the end of the year than most Americans. This is a Google Earth view of North Babylon. Credit: Google

The cost of living on Long Island has reached "alarming" levels, with residents at nearly every income level struggling with some of the nation's highest taxes, according to a new report by an anti-tax think tank.

The report by Reclaim New York, of Manhattan, says that while Long Islanders on average earn twice the national median income, families here are struggling to get by because of high income, property, sales and excise taxes, and the cost of food, transportation and housing.

Nassau and Suffolk County families typically have less than 5 percent of their income left at year's end to pay off debt, take vacations or for savings, according to the report, which uses data from the U.S. Census, the Internal Revenue Service and other sources to calculate the cost of living on Long Island.

"The system is really built against taxpayers," said Reclaim New York executive director Brandon Muir. "People need to look at the structure of the system and ask, 'Is this really working?' "

The six directors of Reclaim New York, established in 2013, all have worked for Republican or conservative political groups, media organizations or think tanks, the group's IRS filings show. They include the two daughters of Robert Mercer of East Setauket, chief executive of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who has contributed millions of dollars to Republican presidential candidates.

Muir said the group's work is nonpartisan and that similar reports will be issued across the state in areas controlled by Democratic and Republican officials.

The study found that a family of four in Shirley earning the median income there of $82,557 spends nearly $54,000 for household expenses and more than $23,000 in taxes annually, leaving them with around $5,500 at year's end.

A family of four in Roosevelt with the median income of $66,922 would have only $2,960 -- or 4 percent of their income -- after taxes and expenses.

In Huntington, families earning $236,000 -- double the local median income -- have 7 percent of their income left by year's end, or about $4,500, the report said.

"When only 5 to 10 percent of income is left at the end of the year, how do we expect people to put money away for a 401(k) or to pay off their college tuition?" Muir asked.

According to the pro-business Tax Foundation, of Washington, D.C., the median property tax bill was $9,289 in Nassau and $7,768 in Suffolk in 2010. The national average was $2,043.

The Reclaim New York report said the cost of public transportation, apartment rentals and gasoline typically are higher in New York than in many other states.

The study does not blame particular political parties or levels of government for the cost of living in New York. Muir said the report was designed to spark conversations among taxpayers.


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