Property taxes are always a hot issue in politics but there’s a new twist in the campaign to fill Long Island’s only open New York State Senate seat on Nov. 6.
This week Suffolk County Legis. Rick Montano (D-Central Islip) began running ads claiming that his opponent, Assemb. Phil Boyle (R-Brightwaters), doesn’t pay property taxes in Suffolk County—and that actually the Republican is “an absentee legislator.”
“He doesn’t pay school taxes on Long Island because he lives in Albany,” Montano tells the Press. “His real house is up there.”
Boyle says the accusation is “shameful,” because for more than a year he and his wife have been living with his ailing 80-year-old aunt on Jefferson Street in East Islip—two blocks from where he grew up.
“There’s only one of us who does not live in the district—and that’s Ricardo Montano,” Boyle tells the Press. Because of the newly redrawn lines for the 4th Senate District—held for 40 years by retiring Sen. Owen Johnson (R-Babylon)—Montano will have to move there if he wins.
Montano says that Boyle’s wife’s car is registered in Albany, Boyle’s car is registered in East Islip, and, he concedes, that both Boyle and his wife are registered to vote at his aunt’s East Islip residence. But Montano, a former federal prosecutor, wants the Republican Assemblyman to release his tax returns to show what address he claims is his principal residence.
“He should clarify this for the voters,” Montano says.
Boyle says the charge is “ridiculous” and wonders why Montano would want to “malign renters” and others, like him and his wife, who aren’t currently paying property taxes because of their situation.
“I can tell you, as a politician where I live is very important—I always make sure I’m living in the district I represent!” says Boyle. Before he and his wife moved to East Islip, they were living in Bay Shore. They’re now looking to purchase a house in the district soon and plan to take his aunt with them when they move. He added that he’s paid “over $100,000 in property taxes in Suffolk County.”
Another charge leveled by Montano in his radio ad campaign, which just started airing on WBLI and several other stations on Oct. 18, draws upon a recent story in the New York Post headlined, “Politicians caught collecting Albany per diems when they’re not there,” which ranked Boyle fourth on its list of politicians earning per diem payments (which include $165 for an overnight stay and $61 for a daily trip) with $44,964—right ahead of Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-East Setauket) with $44,579.
Neither Long Island politician is accused of wrongdoing. The article does highlight Assemb. William “Bill” Boyland Jr., who was indicted in 2011 on federal corruption charges and has drawn the attention of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
Boyle does not appreciate Montano drawing him into this story.
“He’s trying to confuse the voters because the person who’s under investigation is Assemblyman Bill Boyland. My name is Phil Boyle. They sound alike but it’s a completely different person,” Boyle says. “As a matter of fact, in Albany we receive many of each other’s phone messages.”
As for living in Albany, Boyle says, “We do own a house up there, as do many state legislators. I stayed in apartments and hotels for nine years during my tenure there and I got sick of dragging my suits back and forth every week.” In reply to Montano’s campaign charge, Boyle retorts: “It’s not my home; it’s a house.”
He insists that as an active volunteer firefighter on Long Island and someone who goes to his local health club 180 to 190 times a year, he can prove that he’s a Long Islander. “Believe me, I’m not commuting to get to the gym at 5 o’clock in the morning from Albany,” Boyle says.
Montano insists that his hard-hitting radio campaign is running “a good ad and it’s factually correct.” He says that although he regrets bringing Boyle’s wife into the race by drawing attention to where she and Boyle actually call home, he’s doing what he has to do to counter Boyle’s negative campaigning against him. “Listen, this is politics, we’re not throwing flowers at one another!”