Westchester’s Top Federal Legislative Priority is SALT Repeal

Westchester’s Top Federal Legislative Priority is SALT Repeal
Westchester County is supporting President Biden’s infrastructure proposal, including funding for the MTA’s Penn Station Access project.

WHITE PLAINS—Westchester County Executive George Latimer released the county’s top federal legislative requests on April 12 and tops on the list is the repeal of the State and Local Tax (SALT) cap.

The legislative priorities list sent to the Westchester Congressional delegation also included support for President Biden’s proposed infrastructure spending plan and a list of infrastructure-oriented projects that could be funded by the federal government.

The SALT deduction cap of $10,000, results in double taxation and raised taxes on thousands of middle-class families in Westchester who depended on that deduction. County officials said that the county strongly supports the repeal of the SALT tax cap. The SALT deduction cap was a major source of tax fairness for high-taxed and donor states like New York. Prior to 2017, 70% of Westchester’s middle-income families (defined as families making less than $200,000 per year) itemized their federal tax deductions and had an average of $36,263 in SALT deductions.

The legislative priorities were compiled by the Westchester County Department of Intergovernmental Relations under Latimer’s leadership. Department of Intergovernmental Relations Director Steve Bass led the team along with Deputy Director Ellen Hendrickx and Intergovernmental Relations Aide Kyle McIntyre.

“I want to thank the Intergovernmental Affairs team for their tireless work on making sure that the voices of county residents are heard on the federal level,” Westchester County Executive Latimer said. “There is much we can do at the county level of government, but we do need the federal government to help us on many issues. I applaud the work of our federal delegation thus far, and look forward to continued collaboration for the betterment of Westchester County moving forward.”

Among some of its top federal legislative priorities include rejecting any cuts to Medicaid and any shift of costs from the federal to state government and the opposition of the block granting and/or privatization of programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that would result in people losing benefits. Westchester also supports funding for mental health services, and requiring adequate coverage for mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment. The county noted that COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the mental health crisis in Westchester and it supports community based mental health services for youth and young adults.

Westchester County also supports full funding for the HUD Section 8 Program as well as fully funding CDBG, HOME, and ESG programs. County officials noted that within two years of its reinstatement by the Latimer administration, the Westchester County Urban Consortium has grown to 31 communities and is preparing to accept a new slate of infrastructural projects. These communities, along with four entitled cities, currently rely on CDBG funds for these projects and the benefits they provide.

Among the priorities, Westchester is urging its federal Congressional delegation that any infrastructure bill include funding for a host of major projects:

Penn Station Access

The Penn Station Access project will have significant benefits for Westchester commuters who travel to the West Side, saving valuable time from their daily commutes. The opening of that project will divert some LIRR trains to Grand Central, thereby opening up slots at Penn Station for Metro-North service. Once completed, Metro-North and the LIRR commuters will have access to both the West side and the East side of Manhattan. The project includes the addition of four new stations in the Bronx on the New Haven Line: Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester/Van Nest, and Hunts Point.

Lake Isle Dam Repair

At the moment, there is no municipality claiming responsibility for Eastchester’s segment of the dam, the county noted. With costs ranging from $6 million to $20 million, Westchester County is asking, on behalf of the surrounding municipalities, for federal assistance in creating a system to pay for this repair which will have to be processed and managed by the surrounding municipalities, and would include preparing a plan to renovate the dam, and providing the proper allocation of federal funds to go toward the project’s ultimate completion.

Yonkers Wastewater Treatment Plant

Westchester County requests $69.1 million in budgeted federal grants to address long-term infrastructural repairs to the plant’s odor insulation.

Environmental Protection and Clean Water

The county is asking its Congressional representatives to reinstate all EPA and environmental funds stripped away by the last administration. Despite strong bipartisan backing, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 failed to pass in the 116th Congress.

If passed in this session, both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) will be reauthorized. As this federal funding provides critical support for water and sewer projects, many of which are long overdue, Westchester County stated that it strongly urges the re-introduction and swift passage of S. 3590 and a sufficient allocation of associated federal funding.

The county is also seeking funding for the PFAS/PFO remediation at the Westchester County Airport through the National Defense Authorization Act.

In 2018, the county reinstated the groundwater-testing program at the airport that had been discontinued during the prior administration. Based on the sampling and ground water flow patterns, the county, in cooperation with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, is developing a remediation plan for the airport. The county is also working closely with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection due to the proximity of the airport to the reservoir system. The county is seeking financial support from the U.S. Dept. of Defense to assist with remediation costs due to their responsibility for the contamination.

Other federal priorities include having the US DOT implement a host of regulations to prevent bridge strikes on local highways. In Westchester County there were 329 bridge strikes on county and state parkways between 2017 and 2020.

The county is also asking federal lawmakers to develop a safe solution for high level radioactive waste transportation and disposal at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, support for the net neutrality and help fund the development of affordable broadband access, the domestic violence prevention and services efforts, opioid abuse prevention, treatment and enforcement and for the county’s flood hazard mapping and risk analysis program.

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