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In Senate fight, GOP, Dems spar over health care idea

ALBANY — Senate Republicans on Tuesday said a Democratic proposal to create single-payer health care could quadruple the average Long Island family’s state income tax, a claim that Democrats rejected as they declared they will not raise taxes if they take control of the Senate.

Republicans are fighting to keep the Senate majority that they’ve held for most of a half-century, but are within one seat of losing control of the 63-seat Senate. And nearly a dozen races in the Nov. 6 election are too close to call.

Republicans contend a Democratic Senate proposal introduced for the last two years that promises health care for all New Yorkers would result in $139 billion in new spending for the state. By comparison, the total state budget is $168.3 billion. The Republican analysis claims an average Long Island family would pay about $21,000 a year in state income taxes, compared to about $7,000 today.

Yet how the controversial system would or could work is far from certain. For example, Senate Republicans are assuming the entire cost of the program would be paid through state income taxes with the full cost paid annually. But paying for the health care plan solely through income taxes is unlikely, experts say, and the cost could be eased by spreading the cost over payroll taxes and fees and over several years.

The nonprofit RAND Corp., an independent think tank, in August said the single-payer plan would insure 1.1 million more New Yorkers, reduce unaffordable premiums and copays for 18 million more, and result in a net savings for 90 percent of New Yorkers, although wealthier residents would pay far more under new progressive income tax rates, according to the study.

“Senate Republicans are the last bastion of hope for our taxpayers who cannot afford disastrous Democrat policies like AlbanyCare,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “Just one Democrat policy alone, government-run health care, would bankrupt families on Long Island.”

Republicans have blocked the New York Health bill for two years, but the measure pushed by the Democratic minority conference  isn’t necessarily what the Democratic majority would pursue, said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy.

"Like the majority of New Yorkers we understand the skyrocketing costs of health care, but this attack is nothing but GOP fearmongering and scare tactics not based in reality,” Murphy said. “The Senate Democratic majority will not raise taxes.”

Republicans are using the RAND estimate of $139 billion in added cost for the government health care program. The state income tax that now ranges between 4 percent and 8.82 percent would rise to 10 percent for the first $27,000 of household income and would be 18 percent for income more than $27,000 and less than $141,000. Income over $141,000 would be taxed at 27 percent, according to the study.

About 80 percent of the net added cost would be paid by employers, with 20 percent of workers seeing an increase, according to the study. Small employers would be required to provide health insurance, which business groups claim would shutter small companies operating on a slim profit margin.

Other obstacles are in the way, too. The Republican Trump administration has said it won't provide necessary waivers for the program. Powerful lobbyists, including hospitals that are often the biggest employers in communities, also would exercise their considerable clout in any deliberations.

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