Paying the Piper
“First of all, from the county’s perspective, taxes [aren’t] the answer because our property tax revenue generates $49 million,” Carpenter told the Press at a crowded recent fundraiser held at the Madison Steak House in Hauppauge. The county’s operating budget is in the billions. “If I double the property tax…it’s not going to make a difference,” she said. “I mean $49 million pays one and a half payrolls! You know it’s not the answer.” She leans toward public-private partnerships, a la the Ducks Stadium (“that was a home run!”) and pursuing joint initiatives with Nassau County.
Carpenter still has a couple of years left on her term as treasurer but she’s been itching to get into this race for the county’s top job for quite a while. Carpenter said she was seriously thinking about running a primary against Levy if he hadn’t taken himself out of the race in March.
“I just felt he wasn’t taking the county in the right direction,” she told the Press as a steady stream of well-wishers came to her corner table at the restaurant. Her approach is different. “My style is doing things quietly behind the scenes. We won’t be having press conferences three times a day!”
She also intends to strike a better relationship with the county legislature, where she served for more than a dozen years, than the one Levy’s had. “We have two branches of government here,” Carpenter said. “You need someone who can work with the legislature.”
When Carpenter last ran county-wide for the treasurer’s office, Schaffer didn’t run a Democrat to oppose her; she was endorsed by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Bellone emerged early on as Schaffer’s pick for the county executive race, but Carpenter did not get the official blessing of GOP chairman, LaValle until the Suffolk Republicans held their convention at the end of May.
Being treasurer has given Carpenter a broader perspective about the county’s issues. She knows the county executive job comes with a lot more agita, but says she can handle it.
“I know I have what it takes to do the job,” she said. “Because of the challenges the county is facing right now, we can’t afford to have someone who needs on-the-job training. We need someone in the position who really knows what’s going on.”
“You want somebody who understands the plight of the business owner, the working person,” Carpenter said. She started a printing business now run by her sons in West Islip called Act Communications Group. “People who’ve never had to work, who’ve been in elective office their whole life, don’t really know what people are struggling with,” Carpenter added. “And I hear it every day in the treasurer’s office. I hear it from people who haven’t been able to pay their taxes.”
Republicans have started labeling her Democratic opponent “Big Tax Bellone,” claiming that the town supervisor has made Babylon “the tax capital of Suffolk County.”
“I’m not going to attack Babylon,” Carpenter insisted. “Babylon plays an important role in Suffolk County. It’s not my style to attack. I’m just going to focus on what I can do for the residents of Suffolk County.”