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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone defends mortgage interest deduction

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is pictured on

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is pictured on Feb. 1, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, trying to head off federal tax reform plans that he said could hurt local taxpayers, warned that cutting deductions for mortgage interest and state income taxes would be “devastating” to the Long Island economy.

Bellone said at a news conference that ending such itemized deductions would cost 357,700 Suffolk taxpayers an average of $6,128 annually and siphon $1.7 billion out of the local economy.

Bellone said he wanted to get ahead of various tax reform proposals under discussion by President Donald Trump and his aides, even though the White House has proposed no specific legislation.

“We have to make sure that the proposal that is out there to take away the mortgage interest deduction is withdrawn, and the quicker it’s withdrawn the better,” Bellone said outside the Huntington Chamber of Commerce. “The impact of that . . . to Long Island would be absolutely devastating for working-class and middle-class families.”

For the mortgage deduction alone, Bellone estimated that those making $75,000 to $100,000 a year would see a $900 increase in income taxes. Those earning up to $200,000 a year could face an extra tax hit of $1,300, he said.

Matt Cohen, a vice president of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, also said eliminating deductions for state income taxes could cost county residents a total of $583.2 million, or about $2,033 per taxpayer.

Bellone said his administration was “caught a little short” by the speed with which repeal of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was proposed and acted on. He said he wants to make sure the public is aware of the impact that some tax reforms could have on high-cost, high-tax areas such as Long Island.

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