Mangano's pre-election budget wisely timed

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano shown speaking during

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano shown speaking during a press conference at the Nassau County Executive building. (Sept. 12, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

The cover of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed 2014 budget says he did not raise taxes.

It says so four times.

And that detail echoes -- five more times -- in Mangano's letter to lawmakers, which leads the 414-page executive summary of the document released late Monday.


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Then there was Tuesday's news release on the proposal: It trumpeted the no-tax increase message seven more times.

We get it.

Nassau's Republican county executive, who is running for re-election, is not proposing an increase in the 2014 county portion of the property tax, for the fourth year in a row.

Mangano's predecessor and challenger in this year's county executive race, Democrat Thomas Suozzi, touted a few tax freezes as well during his two terms in office.

But Suozzi and Democrats -- who took the legislature for the first time in 70 years in 1999 -- had two property tax increases sandwiched in between their no-tax increase budgets.

Suozzi's predecessor, Thomas Gulotta, a Republican, was master of the no-tax-increase budget.

After trying once, he never proposed another general fund increase during his 11 years in office.

Even after Gulotta decided in 1999 against seeking a fourth term, he vetoed a tax increase lawmakers had jammed through.

That left Suozzi with a hole that needed filling in his first budget.

What makes raising taxes so hard in Nassau?

More than a decade ago, a change in the county charter began forcing the county executive and lawmakers to pass Nassau's budget before elections, rather than afterward, as had been the practice.

The idea was to stop surprise, postelection tax increases.

In Suffolk County, where County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to release his proposed 2014 budget later this week, there is no such law -- although at least one legislator has backed the idea of putting one in place.

Suffolk votes on its budget after election day.

For Mangano, the process will be much more compressed, with lawmakers, the legislature's independent budget review office and a state control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, reviewing the proposal.

Nassau's budget must be approved by Oct. 31 -- five days before Election Day.

Suozzi, in his last budget and four-year plan, put in a home energy tax to raise more revenue.

He also included automatic tax increases tied to the cost of living.

Mangano in his first days in office eliminated both the energy tax and cost-of-living increases -- which blew holes in his own budgets.

Nassau's true challenge, through more than a decade of financial stress, however, was never the politics of tax increases.

It's been pulling in enough recurring revenue to cover Nassau's recurring expenses.

Does the budget and five-year financial plan Mangano proposed late Monday meet the test?

More analysis is needed.

And it will come, thanks to Nassau's charter -- before Election Day.