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Editorial

President Biden has his work cut out for him

Posted

We will need years, if not decades, to unravel and repair the damage that President Trump has done to the nation with his politics and policies.

Beyond his ineffectual, incoherent, even reckless approach to addressing the coronavirus pandemic, which has left the country in tatters, he worked continually to reverse sound policies and regulations developed over decades. Here are the Long Island-specific issues that we are hoping to see President Joe Biden address:

1. Climate change. There is no doubt that, long-term, global warming is among the most urgent issues facing Long Island. We are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, which is expected to rise in the coming decades as the Earth heats and the massive ice shelves of Greenland and the Antarctic melt away into the oceans as a result. It is unclear precisely how high the oceans will rise, but the range could be anywhere from one foot, if we were to act aggressively to limit carbon emissions, to as much as eight feet by the year 2100, if we were to continue on our current course, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We could live with a one-foot rise. Eight feet would be a disaster, with significant inland flooding. Whole swaths of the Island could be lost to the sea. Think about that: Eight decades from now (one human lifetime), much of our home island could be underwater if we don’t curb our greenhouse gas emissions — now, not later.

Biden signaled weeks before he took office that he would re-enter the 2015-16 Paris Agreement to limit greenhouse gases, which Trump pulled out of in 2017. Doing so would be an excellent start, but there is so much else to do — in particular, supporting our nascent green-energy industries, including solar and wind. Long Island is located in a region of the world known as the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” Under Trump, however, the federal government has done all it can to stall the development of major oceanic wind farms off our coast. It’s high time that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management fast-track these projects.

2. Wetlands protection. Almost from the start of his presidency, Trump vowed to do away with an Obama-era rule that protected our streams, bays and wetlands from chemical contamination. The rule, known as the Waters of the United States regulation, covered roughly 60 percent of the nation’s waterways, according to The New York Times.

Last January, Trump did away with the rule, but went further, allowing land owners and developers, for the first time in decades, “to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects,” The Times noted.

Many citizens might not have noticed the loosening of a key environmental regulation, because Trump was six days into his first Senate impeachment trial at the time.

Wetlands are critical to buffering Long Island against hurricanes and tropical storms, absorbing storm surge and thus protecting our mainland. Any effort to deregulate wetlands protection is a threat to the Island. The regulation must be restored.

3. SALT deduction: For many Long Islanders, there has been no single policy as economically consequential as Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which limited the itemized deduction for state and local taxes. Beginning in 2018, married couples filing joint federal tax returns could deduct only $10,000 for combined state, local and property taxes, or $5,000 for those filing separate returns.

Average homeowners on Long Island lost tens of thousands of dollars in deductions as a result of the act. Where once area families might have had a combined $35,000 or $45,000 in deductions, suddenly they were forced to take the new standard deduction of $24,000. Effective tax rates were lowered, yes, but not enough to make up for the deductions loss, so many Long Islanders saw their federal taxes increase.

We should also note that the tax rate reductions for individuals are set to expire in 2025, whereas Trump’s corporate tax reductions are permanent. Talk about socking it to the little guy!

The loss of SALT deductions is fundamentally unfair, in part, because it forces people to pay federal taxes on top of state and local taxes that they have already paid. Clearly, this legislation needs reform, and with a new administration and a Democratically controlled Congress, we hope to see it overhauled.