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Suffolk lawmakers call for repeal of county's energy tax

File photo of Ed Romaine. (Jan. 25, 2010)

File photo of Ed Romaine. (Jan. 25, 2010) Credit: Pablo Corradi

Five Suffolk legislators on Tuesday called for a referendum to repeal the county's 2.5 percent tax on residential energy fuels, a move that critics warned would blow a $54 million hole in the county's operating budget.

Legis. Edward P. Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who called the county's eight-year-old energy tax "socially, economically and morally wrong," said adding the question to the November general election ballot would allow "the people to decide" if the county should continue the tax.

The bill stipulates that, if the referendum were approved this November, the repeal would go into effect Sept. 1, 2011.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said unless Romaine points to how the county would replace lost revenue, the proposal is dead on arrival.

"If Legis. Romaine can't find the cuts, he's in effect proposing to double county general fund property taxes," Lindsay said. "Until he does, it is difficult to take this proposal seriously."

County Executive Steve Levy also took a skeptical tone. "If you want the glory from cutting revenue, you must have the guts to specifically identify the programs you will cut to make up for the lost revenue," Levy said in a prepared statement.

Romaine and his colleagues - Minority Leader Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham) and Legislators Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) - did not offer proposals on how they would reduce spending or raise alternate revenue to replace the home energy tax.

Their legislation calls for creating a "blue-ribbon" panel to study county government and seek other spending reductions.

Schneiderman also on Tuesday introduced separate legislation to reduce the residential energy fuel tax to 1.5 percent, which would reduce county revenue by about $21.6 million. "I think it's important that we give the legislature an opportunity to do this before putting it on the ballot," he said.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano made repealing his county's home energy tax a centerpiece of his campaign. Mangano repealed Nassau's tax on his first day in office.

Former Legis. Cameron Alden (R-Islip) proposed repealing the home energy tax 11 times from 2005 to 2009, with no success.

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