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EDITORIAL: Cost-of-living gap hurts LI

No one has to tell people on Long Island that they pay a lot in federal taxes to support programs they don't qualify for. But incomes that make the Island and its residents too affluent for assistance often aren't enough to make ends meet in such a high-cost region.

Washington could give people caught in that squeeze a break by adjusting poverty levels and - oh, to dream - maybe even income tax brackets, based on the regional cost of living. One result in regions like Long Island would be more federal money for things like schools, health care, community development and social programs, where eligibility is based on individual income or the area's poverty rate.

Consider the chasm between the one-size-fits-all national poverty level of $25,790 for a family of five, and the income it takes to cover necessities - housing, food, child care, transportation, health care and taxes - for that family on Long Island. In Nassau, the tab is $113,633 and in Suffolk, $121,269, according to the Self-Sufficiency Standard for New York State.

OK, time for cold political reality: Enacting such changes have been talked about for decades and gone nowhere. It would cost Washington money, and only about 50 congressional districts would benefit. But that's little different from things like farm subsidies, which overwhelmingly go to a few regions. Besides, Long Island, and the hard-pressed, not-truly-affluent, could use the help. hN


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