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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

With the election, Senate's 'Long Island 9' gain strength

From left, Republican state Sens. Jack Martins, Kemp

From left, Republican state Sens. Jack Martins, Kemp Hannon and Dean Skelos celebrate victory at the GOP's election night headquarters in Westbury on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The retaking of complete control of the State Senate by Republicans likely will matter more in the day-to-day lives of Nassau and Suffolk residents than any other result of Tuesday's elections.

Once again, there are nine GOP Long Island senators, who, acting together, and without having to rely on a group of renegade Democrats, will have the ability to derail unwanted legislation and bring home school aid and other varieties of bacon.

But it's bigger than that.

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who likely will again become majority leader come January, also was smart enough to build sturdy bridges upstate -- where the GOP picked up three seats Tuesday.

The power building may not stop there, since Skelos for two years has been part of a leadership coalition that included five independent Democrats from New York City and its suburbs and from upstate.

What do they all have in common? Interests that vary greatly from New York City-centric Senate Democrats.

Skelos came out swinging on that score yesterday, saying Republicans would push their own priorities of cutting taxes and curbing spending, and supporting charter schools. That likely would mean blocking initiatives by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, including public campaign financing.

In that, Skelos is reaching out to an audience beyond Nassau and Suffolk, as he also tries to protect Long Island.

Skelos also may be foreshadowing a change in his relationship with Cuomo once the period of power-sharing with renegade Senate Democrats ends.

On Long Island, the No. 1 issue is property taxes, which make up a significant percentage of overall taxes paid by local residents. But taxes are an issue upstate too, because they are a significant percentage of upstaters' incomes.

Then there are jobs and the economy.

On Long Island, where small business is king, the costs of doing business -- from taxes to utility costs -- are high. And good-paying jobs will be essential to keeping young people in Nassau and Suffolk. But upstate, devastated by the loss of industry, needs good jobs and ground fertile enough for sustained economic growth.

With Tuesday's win, Republicans can force Albany -- where Democrats on Tuesday tightened an already strong hold on the Assembly, continuing a string of majorities dating back to 1975 -- to more vigorously address the needs of Long Island and upstate.

For decades, Long Islanders have sent Albany more tax money than the state sends back. And with New York State's property tax cap, the fight for state school aid becomes even more important: If Albany doesn't give the Long Island region enough, taxes likely would rise.

As of Tuesday, Senate Republicans -- and by extension Skelos and the rest of the Long Island Nine -- are stronger than they were two years ago.

They're a force Albany will have little choice but to reckon with.

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