Nassau moves toward tax refund compromise
Should Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams meet as scheduled this week, it'll be the fourth time they've talked together in two weeks.
This is news in a county where government, for months, has been stalemated over the issue of whether Democrats would give Mangano, a Republican, the legislative votes he needs to borrow millions of dollars to fund successful tax assessment appeals.
Both sides agree that they are trying to work toward some compromise that could -- heavy emphasis on "could," this is, after all, a negotiation -- allow Nassau to begin paying some of the refunds owed to residential property owners.
The goal, both sides agree, is to fashion some reasonable compromise that would have Nassau borrow a small percentage of the $165 million Mangano initially wanted to borrow to repay refunds.
Over the past two weeks, Mangano, according to people close to him, has indicated a willingness to seek a far smaller amount. Abrahams, in an interview Monday, acknowledged Mangano's assertion that he would seek fewer funds.
"I think we are getting closer to an area where we can agree," Abrahams said.
But both sides acknowledge a rub: As part of any deal, Democrats want Mangano to restore $8 million in funding for social services and other agencies that was cut out of this year's budget. Mangano reduced or ended several of those contracts as a cost-cutting move last year -- when Democrats first began blocking Republican efforts to borrow.
"It's no secret," Abrahams said. "This has been one of our goals."
Hopefully the goal will not become a stumbling block.
Last year, Abrahams and the Democratic caucus blocked borrowing as a tactic to force change in a Republican redistricting map that would have folded together several districts represented by Democrats.
Republicans did change the map to lessen the blow, although Democrats, unhappy with the revisions, have appealed the document.
The Mangano administration might have made a fair assumption that compromise would be easier after Republicans revised the map.
Mangano and Abrahams had stopped negotiating after the redistricting fight. But two weeks ago, after Abrahams called Mangano, talks began anew.
This time around, there's even a deadline -- of sorts.
The Mangano administration wants to have compromise in place by May 6 -- two weeks before a meeting of the full legislature, when Democrats, in theory, would join Republicans to give Mangano the supermajority vote necessary to approve borrowing.
"I think we can get there," said Abrahams, of Freeport.
Any deal they might make also would have to pass muster with Legis. Norma Gonsalves, of East Meadow, who heads the legislature's Republican majority.
For now, Mangano and Abrahams are to be commended for resuming talks. But as both well know, it will take more than that to get government moving again.
It's time to show residents that Nassau's government can push past politics to governing. That would be a grand thing, especially during an election year.