Challengers for political office often don’t know as much, never mind more, about the intricacies of governance, laws and taxes as the incumbents they want to replace. This is not the case with John Brooks of Seaford, whose understanding of complex issues such as state education funding and the Nassau County assessment system is deep, sound and nuanced.
Brooks, 66, is a Republican running on the Democratic ballot line. He has worked as an insurance executive and was Nassau County’s director of risk management. He served on the Seaford school board from 1992 to 1999, and for years he has been an advocate for reducing property taxes and has proposed ways to do so.
He is critical of the low amount of state funding for most Long Island schools and local districts’ reliance on property taxes. His answer is a tax swap to significantly lower local property taxes, but increase state income taxes. He would base state aid partially on the regional cost of living and let the state pay a much higher percentage of public school costs. This plan would especially help seniors who struggle on fixed incomes to stay in their homes.
It’s a solution that would bring serious pushback and is probably impossible to implement now. There are valid reasons to oppose it. But his plan is mathematically rigorous, morally worthy of consideration and shows far more creativity than what we’ve seen from all the politicians who say they want to control property taxes but have no idea how.
Brooks is similarly detailed in explaining how he would vote to end the Nassau County guarantee, a state law that forces the county to refund tax overpayments that actually went to school districts and other municipalities. He would address assessment problems by using tax credits rather than refunds.
Brooks would push for 10-year term limits in the Senate and Assembly, suspend publicly funded mailings by legislators earlier in election years, and end gerrymandering through independent political redistricting based on school district and community boundaries.
Contrasted with Brooks, Massapequa Republican Sen. Michael Venditto, seeking his second term, sounds more like a challenger than an incumbent. Venditto, 35, served in the Nassau County Legislature for two years before heading to Albany, but there are still many issues on which he has no firm positions.
He says his highest priority is reducing the burden on taxpayers, but he has no plan to do so, and he would support amending the property-tax cap to a “true 2” percent cap, which would speed property tax increases. The current system, which this board supports, allows property tax rates to rise by 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
On term limits, Venditto is “open to discussion.” On limiting outside income for legislators, he “wouldn’t want to be committal.” He’s not sure whether he’d vote to end the county guarantee, and he’s not sure whether he would vote to reduce the number of signatures necessary to get candidates on ballots.
The two bills he is proudest of sponsoring would let municipalities make it impossible for sex offenders to live anywhere within their limits and increase the period sex offenders must stay on the registry from 20 years to 30. Neither ever made it to the floor. Both are likely unconstitutional, and are more about Venditto looking good than making the lives of those he represents better. There’s no good argument to be made for sending Venditto back to Albany.
Brooks is a brainy and thoughtful candidate whose expertise could be a huge asset in representing suburban interests in Albany.
Newsday endorses Brooks.