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Tax reform bill leads residents’ concerns during meeting with Zeldin

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) held mobile offices at the Riverhead Fire Department Monday before he headed down to the Capitol for a House of Representatives vote.

More than a dozen East End residents, many of whom got to speak one-on-one with Mr. Zeldin, had questions about pending federal tax legislation and how it could affect their lives.

Alison Fox, 21, of Riverhead said she wanted to ask how changes in the tax plan supported by the GOP at large would affect her family and others in Suffolk County.

Mr. Zeldin announced Friday in a statement that he would vote “no” for the final tax reform bill.

Getting this bill done and getting this bill done right should not have been a binary choice,” Mr. Zeldin said. “My goal in this tax reform mission has always been to ensure that the hard working men and women of Long Island keep more of their paycheck, reduce their cost of living, and are able to save more for retirement. Unfortunately, this bill is not the tax relief they were promised.”

He noted he liked certain measures in the final agreement, including the expansion of Medical Expense Deduction, education and student deductions and a “strong corporate tax reform that will stimulate job creation.”

The $10,000 cap on a deduction to the state and local tax was progress, but not enough to protect middle income itemizers, he said. All levels of government should work on tax relief moving forward, he said, as state and local taxes are so high.

“On balance, this bill remains a geographic redistribution of wealth, taking extra money from a place like New York to pay for deeper tax cuts elsewhere,” the congressman said. “New York is a net contributor that now will be contributing even more. This bill chooses winners and losers in a way that could have and should have been avoided.”

One longtime Riverhead couple, who declined to share their names, said they had a few issues on their minds, including illegal immigration and health insurance.

Others raised concerns related to Medicare and Social Security. Marypat Takacs of Riverhead said she wanted to see an update in Medicare regulations as they relate to Type 1 diabetes patients. She said she was specifically concerned about a limit of three glucose test-strips per day, as well as a mandated frequency of visits to doctors who provide insulin. While she said she was able to receive coverage for testing strips through her own health insurance provider, she she said wanted to be sure those with more limited resources could do so as well.

A few constituents raised concerns about a Manhattan fundraiser for Mr. Zeldin last Thursday where former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon was a headliner.

Ellie Steudte, who identified herself as a Democrat and wore a “Resist” sweatshirt, said it was a major concern for her.

“It makes me ill,” the Southampton resident said of views that Mr. Bannon and Breitbart are often associated with, such as white nationalism.

Jeanne Greco of Eastport said she felt there is currently division in the country.

“We’re all Americans,” she said. She said she feels that affiliation with Mr. Bannon would perpetuate an “anti-diversity” message.

Diana Hyatt of Calverton was not there to talk issues, but to find out how she could donate a number of Word War II items that she held from her uncle who served in Normandy, including a painting of the scene there and v-mail, which was how soldiers corresponded with their loved ones back home. She said she wanted the items to find a place in a veteran’s home, but didn’t want them get lost in the process.

Butterfly Effect Project founder Tijuana Fulford sat one-on-one with the congressman and told him about her program that aims to empower girls. Ms. Fulford recently left her job to run the program full-time and said she wanted to let people know “who we are and what we’re doing.”

Mr. Zeldin said Ms. Fulford could work with his team and draft a House floor speech that he could deliver about the project.

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Photo caption: Congressman Lee Zeldin hears from Butterfly Effect Project founder Tijuana Fulford at a mobile office in Riverhead on Monday. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

Editor’s Note: A line saying Mr. Zeldin did not meet with media was removed. Mr. Zeldin’s spokesperson said Mr. Zeldin spoke with multiple media outlets before leaving the event. And Ms. Fox did get the chance to meet with Mr. Zeldin when he met with a group of people right before he had to leave. Ms. Fox was originally told she would meet only with a staff member.