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Affordability

Incumbent Tom Muratore is being challenged for his county legislator seat in the 4th District by Holbrook resident David Bligh. Photo of Muratore from his campaign site; photo of Bligh from candidate

In Suffolk County’s 4th District, Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is seeking his sixth term and is being challenged by Democrat David Bligh, an environmental engineer from Holbrook. We reached out to both candidates via email to allow them the opportunity to fill us in on what is on their minds as they campaign.

Incumbent Tom Muratore

We asked Muratore what he was most proud of during his tenure as a county legislator. One was working with multiple government agencies as well as community groups to purchase land for a 24-acre park. The future Selden Park Complex will include multipurpose fields, a walking trail and more.

“This allows for more field space and places for our children to play baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and softball right here in our district,” he said. “The state-of-the-art facility is also a great place to host children with specials needs learning new sports through challenges and inclusive sports offerings.”

The county legislator also counted securing funds for a feasibility study for sewers in his district among his accomplishments.

“The availability of sanitary sewers has the potential to increase business investment, improve water quality and provide greater environmental protection in the Selden/Centereach communities,” Muratore said.

The legislator also has secured $6.6 million for road improvements on County Road 16, Horseblock Road. He said in addition to the road being repaved, handicapped-accessible sidewalks were installed and there were improvements to several crosswalks.

Among the issues facing the county, Muratore cites Suffolk’s financial crisis as one of the biggest issues.

“We must budget responsibly, hold the line on taxes and eliminate the outrageous fees, such as the red-light camera fee,” he said. “We must also reduce our capital borrowing. In the next term, I support a 5-10 percent reduction in capital borrowing.”

Other issues he said are protecting the environment and open spaces; supporting law enforcement and first responders for tackling the opioid crisis; and growing the economy by investing in our energy and transportation infrastructure and revitalizing downtowns.

Challenger David Bligh

Bligh said he feels the biggest issues facing Suffolk County currently are affordability, government accountability and responsiveness. The county’s deteriorating water quality he views as a crisis.

Bligh, who grew up in Ronkonkoma, said he hopes his three children will be able to afford to live on the Island when they grow up.

“We have to make Long Island affordable, especially here in Suffolk County, so that our young people and elderly can afford to stay here, and this county doesn’t simply become a place for the wealthy to dwell in their summer homes,” he said.

Bligh said he considers the deteriorating water quality in the county a crisis as it recently had the highest rate of emerging contaminants in New York State, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group May 2019 report entitled “What’s in My Water?: Emerging Contaminants in New York’s Drinking Water Systems.” He said “every elected official’s number one priority must be the safety of the constituents they serve.”

“If people cannot drink water without fearing toxins such as 1,4-dioxane, PFAS [polyfluoroalkyl substances], and other carcinogens, then we have failed as a government,” he said.

When it comes to government accountability and responsiveness, he said his team knocked on more than 14,000 doors while campaigning, and they repeatedly heard about “constituents calling their local officials about concerns in the community and being largely ignored.” He said too many times elected officials will say that an issue cannot be dealt with on their level of government or it’s outside of their jurisdiction.

He said if a legislator cannot handle an issue, they should call those who can and connect the constituent with them.

“We work for the people, not the other way around,” Bligh said.

If elected, Bligh said he would introduce a comprehensive package of ethics and good government reforms, and implement legislation that allows for the development of affordable housing units.

Also, he said as an environmental engineer for the past 15 years, his job entails remediating contaminated sites, and he looks forward to passing further legislation to protect the water quality and to safeguard Long Island from the effects of climate change.

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A Reclaim New York study suggests that it is increasingly difficult to afford living on the Island. File photo

By Brandon Muir

Long Island is a place that should be synonymous with thriving families, beaches, and the best New York has to offer. However, as more people and businesses struggle to stay here, it has become, unfortunately, just as associated with high taxes, a stagnant economy, debt, and public corruption.

It’s no mystery to Long Islanders that the region has struggled. They read the headlines about population decline, while they watch their neighbors move south. As they work to make ends meet, they may not realize they are fighting an uphill battle against a deep and widespread affordability crisis that has consequences for virtually every household.

Long Islanders are paying the price for high taxation, endless regulation, and corruption that drive the cost of government sky-high.

A new study by Reclaim New York provides the most alarming evidence yet that recent graduates, middle-class families, and even people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year are struggling to achieve financial stability and save for the future.

The analysis has computed Long Islanders’ total tax burden, including income, sales, excise, and property taxes, together with basic living expenses — what you have to pay just to wake up every morning on Long Island.

The results show that wherever you live, across Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the affordability crisis follows.

For instance, the median family of four living in Huntington school district earns over $118,000 annually. Even by New York standards, that should make for a comfortable living.

But after government and basic expenses take a bite out of their wallet, they are left with four percent of their income.

Across the Island, in Port Jefferson, the situation is similar, yet somehow worse. A family earning the median income there goes into the red, losing $2,855 per year.

That is before they pay off debts, save for college or retirement, and cover additional expenses. Even if they cut back on basics, they are not close to building a future.

Analysis of a range of other cases, across regions and income spectrums, reveals more trends. Like why the boomerang effect is so prominent on Long Island.

Many young people are barely in the black, and too frequently in the red, if living on their own.

A recent college graduate in Lake Ronkonkoma (Sachem School District), fortunate enough to get a job in his area of study, making $48,707 annually, can only save two percent of that, or $955. That’s before any student loan payments.

It’s going to be hard to enjoy a night out too often, let alone buy a house or get married.

For the people across all these examples, New York costs 90 percent or more of their income.

When tax policies are preventing earners high and low from building financial stability, they’re no longer progressive, but simply oppressive.

This is the iceberg that is sinking Long Island. If people can’t save, they will never be on sound financial footing, especially as they get older.

An affordability and savings crisis this deep requires citizens to get informed and engaged. The key to solving it will not be figuring out better policies on paper, but changing an environment that has fostered failed policies for too long.

Brandon Muir is executive director for Reclaim New York, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing a state-wide, grassroots conversation about the future of New York, its economy, and its people.