LI Democrats wary of ending tax cuts for 'wealthy'By Tom Brune
September 9, 2010
WASHINGTON - Usually Rep. Steve Israel backs his party's agenda, but Wednesday he balked at President Barack Obama's vow to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy.
That's because, the Huntington Democrat said, he and Obama have a "fundamental difference" on defining "rich."
"He defines the rich as $250,000 in income for families," Israelsaid. "But if you live on Long Island, $250,000 does not put you in a lap of luxury."
The fate of the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at year's end, has become a defining issue in a volatile election year in which the economy is the key issue.
Most Democrats back and nearly allRepublicans oppose the Obama plan to allow the tax cuts to expire for couples or families making more than $250,000 a year, but keeping it for those making less than that.
But in New York, Massachusetts and other high-cost areas, many Democrats are treating the tax cuts more gingerly.
Israel jumped ahead of the Obama speech by airing a new TV ad Tuesday that says, "I'm fighting to change the tax code to reflect the higher cost of living in places like Long Island."
Israel said a recent study said a couple with a toddler needs $96,000 to live on Long Island but only $56,000 to live in Lancaster, Pa., yet both situations are taxed as if the value of their dollar was the same.
It's an issue that other Long Island Democrats acknowledge. They back Obama's plan, with a caveat.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) and Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) said the tax plan would reduce the deficit by $700 billion over 10 years and help many taxpayers. Yet, they also said that taxes should be lowered based on Long Island's cost of living to help more families.
"I absolutely support a tax cut for 95 percent of my constituents," Ackerman said. "I'd like it even better if it were 98 percent."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D- N.Y.) said, "The most important thing about the tax cuts is making sure that every family earning under $250,000 gets them," sidestepping the question of whether he backs Obama's plan to let taxes rise on the rich.
All Republicans running for Congress in New York oppose Obama's approach, saying all the tax cuts should be extended for everyone.
"Playing class warfare is always dangerous especially when the nation's economy is struggling to recover," said Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford). "New York and Long Island would be particularly damaged."