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Nassau home energy tax already a source of debate

A 2.5 percent county sales tax on home energy sources kicked in Monday, costing the average Nassau County homeowner an estimated $41 this year and $70 a year after that.

Republicans used the occasion to kick off an effort to repeal the tax, passed by the Democratic majority earlier this along a party-line vote. It will raise $18 million this year and $39 million next year, and help Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi balance the budget.

Privately, Republican downplayed their chances of getting the tax rolled back this year, but said they would make it a campaign issue this summer and fall in the hope of gaining control of the Legislature, which currently has 10 Democrats and 9 Republicans.

Legis. Peter Schmitt of Massapequa, the GOP leader in the Legislature, said civic groups would collect signatures on petitions, and Republican candidates for office would collect signatures along with their nominating petitions.

"If there are 10 or more Republican votes on the Legislature come January, the first, the first, the first item of business that will come up before the legislature will be a resolution to repeal that tax. That is the Republican pledge to the overtaxed families in Nassau County," Schmitt said.

The Democratic presiding officer, Legis. Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove, said the energy tax was part of a budgetary fix in the middle of "the worst economic crisis in our lifetime."

"It is always easy to criticize. I challenge Mr. Schmitt to propose one viable suggestion which will help the county address our financial shortfall," Yatauro said in a statement.

The tax applies to any source of home energy, including electricity, natural gas, propane and firewood.

"The home energy tax hurts those who can least afford it," said Legis. Edward Mangano (R-Bethpage), who is running for county executive.

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