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LIers weigh in on tax cut plan

Steven Stolzenberg, a Lake Success based accountant, believes

Steven Stolzenberg, a Lake Success based accountant, believes the Bush tax cuts should be extended to all Americans. (Dec. 10, 2010) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Congress is wrangling over legislation to extend Bush-era tax cuts to all Americans, and yesterday the Senate passed the measure. It now goes to the House, where some Democrats have complained about parts of the deal, including the preservation of Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy.

Newsday asked Long Islanders to weigh in on the debate. Here's what they had to say:


Helen Feuerstein

Age: 68

Hometown: West Hempstead

Income: More than $250,000

Family: Married, two children

For Feuerstein and her husband, the debate about ending tax breaks on incomes over $250,000 hit home - they're in that income bracket.

She described Obama's initial efforts to let those tax cuts expire as "terrible. I thought it was wrong. To pick on one group of people, that was wrong."

Extending tax cuts for everyone is "fine," Feuerstein said. Asked whether that would help the economy, she said, "I don't think it's going to make any difference. It's not that much money."


Richard Rosa

Age: 33

Hometown: Bellmore

Occupation: Certified public accountant

Income: More than $250,000

Family: Married, three kids

You can't define wealth simply by income, said Rosa, who thinks the Bush tax cuts should be extended, even to household incomes of $250,000 or more.

For some Long Island residents, considering property taxes, commuting expenses and other costs of living, $250,000 isn't that much, he said.

"It's not like they're living in some huge house," Rosa said. "Maybe outside of Long Island $250,000 buys you a lot - that's not a lot of money here."

Rosa favors some kind of adjustment to calculate wealth based on local differences, including cost of living. "A flat rate doesn't apply to the rest of the country," he said. "There has to be a better way."


Steven Stolzenberg

Age: 41

Hometown: Great Neck

Occupation: Accountant

Income: More than $200,000

Family: Married, one child

Stolzenberg supports the provisions in the Obama deal and said not extending the middle-class Bush-era tax cuts would increase his tax bill "by several thousand dollars."

The tax cuts are "real items to put dollars back to the people who need the money," he said.

One issue he has, however, is with adding to the deficit.

"I'd love to see them offset the $900 billion with cost-cutting. I'm a little tired of not having a balanced budget."


Mickey Kiernan

Age: 58

Hometown: Holbrook

Occupation: Business manager

Income: More than $80,000

Family: Married, two children

Kiernan is worried about the future for his two kids and three grandkids. A tax cut would be nice, but Kiernan thinks Congress should let the Bush-era tax cuts expire - even for people like him.

The deficit is too high and he's worried about how that will impact future generations. "I do not want to leave them with this," Kiernan said.

"I'm more worried about the deficit than a couple hundred dollars in my pocket," he said. "If I have to pay a little more now, so be it."


Name: Erin Tenenbaum

Age: 57

Hometown: West Islip

Occupation: Postal worker

Income: $75,000

Family: Married, two children

Tenenbaum said she did not agree with Obama's initial push to end tax cuts for the wealthy.

"Not that I'm anywhere near there," she said of the $250,000 floor, "but I don't agree with that. If they earn that money, that's the income they make and there's a reason for it, they should be taxed accordingly. I don't think you should be penalized just because you're wealthy."


Name: Pat Spiegel

Age: 64

Hometown: Central Islip

Occupation: Church business manager

Income: $40,000

Family: Widow, two children

Spiegel supported Obama's previous position to extend tax cuts for all but the highest income brackets.

"I certainly think that the middle class deserves to keep the same tax rate," she said. "I can't say the same for the people who make a million dollars or more."

"When middle-class people get a tax cut, they go out and spend," she said, adding that high-income earners tend to invest or save additional money. "That doesn't help the economy that much."


Name: Tacara Alston

Age: 28

Hometown: West Hempstead

Occupation: Teacher's assistant at a preschool (hours varying from about 30 to 40 hours per week)

Income: $15,000

Family: Single, one child

Alston thinks tax cuts are good for everyone and will help people who have struggled mightily during the recession.

She's OK with the Bush tax cuts being extended to all Americans, but thinks too much of the conversation has been about the people with money.

"They're talking about the wealthy but what about the people like us," Alston said. "What about the people who barely make it?"

Compiled by Emily C. Dooley and Emi Endo


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