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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Sales-tax revenue is irresistible to counties

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about the

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone talks about the 2016 budget during a meeting with reporters in Hauppauge, Sept. 18, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County's sales-tax revenues are running behind budgeted estimates, threatening a year-end deficit, as officials recently revealed. And Nassau had to reduce its own sales-tax projections earlier in the year, forcing budget changes.

Just for perspective, though, this isn't one of those only-on-Long Island tales. Sales taxes present special dilemmas everywhere that states and localities charge them.

Sales taxes are regressive. The nonprofit Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has noted that the levies "fall far more heavily on low- and middle-income taxpayers than on the wealthy" -- and sales-tax "holidays" have little effect.

Another problem is that online sales can divert collections. Attempts on a national level to force sales-tax charges on some Internet purchases run into serious legal questions. But expect no big shifts, for a very big reason: According to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, sales taxes account for a third of county revenues -- the largest single county revenue source in New York.

POLITICS ON THE MENU: Last week you could enter the East Bay Diner in Wantagh, get seated, look down, and find before you a paper place mat bearing a photo of -- and upbeat message from -- Hempstead Councilman Anthony J. Santino, the Republican running for town supervisor.

The multicolor mat promotes the GOP-run town in part with the claim that "rock-solid finances and common sense fiscal policies" are its "hallmark." There's also a clumsy proofing error, specifically the phrase "12th consecutive years," but overall, the disposable messaging gimmick is clear enough.

Democrat Rita Kestenbaum, a former town board member, faces Santino for the top job on the Nov. 3 ballot. Current GOP Supervisor Kate Murray is challenging Nassau's Democratic acting District Attorney Madeline Singas.

NYC REUNION: His administration ended nearly 22 years ago but a number of former Mayor David Dinkins' top City Hall aides made it to last week's ceremony to mark the naming of the Municipal Building, which opened in 1914, after him. Among them were former deputy mayors Milton Mollen and Norman Steisel, Dinkins economic-development chief Carl Weisbrod (now city planning commissioner), Dinkins consumer affairs commissioner Mark Green (later public advocate), then-corporation counsel Victor Kovner, then-operations director Harvey Robins, and mayoral staffers Arnaldo Segarra and Herbert Block, among others.


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