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OpinionEditorial

Long Island needs SALT cap relief

Any hope that Long Island could be rid of the burdensome SALT cap is welcome. That's why passage of a bill spearheaded by Rep. Thomas Suozzi to lift the $10,000 cap on federal tax deductions for state and local property and income taxes in the House of Representatives matters. 

It likely won’t pass a Republican-controlled Senate, where politicians from lower-income, lower-tax states love to stick it to blue bastions like New York. And if the bill did pass the Senate, President Donald Trump would probably veto it. 

Still, Suozzi's bill is good policy and a good message, and House members from opposite ends of the political spectrum -- Suffolk County's Lee Zeldin and the Bronx's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- were wrong to oppose it.

The House bill doubles the cap for state and local tax deductions for 2019 and removes it for 2020 and 2021. It is funded by increasing the top individual tax rate from the 37% President Donald Trump's 2017 tax bill lowered it to back to 39.6% for six years, and lowering the income at which taxpayers hit that rate by about 20%. 

Six years of funding from that increase is all lawmakers can garner for the SALT change, because that rate and all of the tax cuts for individuals and the SALT cap in the 2017 Trump plan expire in 2025. Only the massive cut in the corporate rate, from 35% to 21%, is permanent.

Zeldin said he opposed Suozzi’s bill because it will need a new funding source in three years. Zeldin has supported other measures to lift the SALT cap and, although he is an ally of Trump, voted against the 2017 tax bill. But many taxpayers in the 1st Congressional District were hit hard by the SALT change, and Zeldin, with his growing GOP influence, needs to signal that middle-class voters like the ones in eastern Suffolk cannot be ignored.

Republican Peter King supported Suozzi's bill, explaining on the House floor that the deduction cap affects blue-collar workers like nurses and building trades members because of the high cost of living here.

Ocasio-Cortez was among a handful of Democrats and the only one in the state who voted against Suozzi’s bill, apparently failing to understand that middle-class families would benefit greatly  from the change.

A recently issued questionnaire from the Working Families Party, part of her power base, to candidates seeking its endorsement, illustrates such thinking, asking them to “avoid messaging that centers on ‘taxpayers’ or ‘tax burdens’ because ‘taxpayer’ has become a racially coded term designed to appeal to white individuals.”

That’s madness. We have far-left liberals arguing that "taxpayers" is code for protecting white people and far-right conservatives arguing that New Yorkers' high taxes are their own fault. These stances are incorrect, particularly in Zeldin and Ocasio-Cortez's districts.

Ocasio-Cortez and Zeldin have given challengers an easy attack: “They voted against lowering your taxes!” They’ve also given the extreme wings of their parties carte blanche to dismiss the concerns of New York’s middle class, and that’s worse. —The editorial board

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