Nassau, Suffolk borrowing proposals blocked in Albany
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ALBANY - A last-minute Republican effort to allow Nassau County to borrow millions without the approval of a state oversight board will not be part of the state budget, nor will a companion bid seeking a quick cash infusion for Suffolk, lawmakers said Sunday.
In the horse-trading of the state budget, some officials countered it was unfair for the Democrats to seek help for Suffolk but reject assistance for GOP-run Nassau. As a result, lawmakers said, neither proposal probably will be included when the budget is enacted over the next few days.
The debate sprouted earlier this year with a bid by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, for a cash infusion by executing a "sale-lease back" agreement for two county buildings. The sale of the Dennison Building in Hauppauge and one other would reap an estimated $70 million, helping alleviate Suffolk's $250 million budget hole, Bellone said. The county wants state legislative approval to use a state authority to execute the borrowing at a lower cost than it could on its own.
As budget talks progressed, the State Senate advanced an idea to let Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, issue bonds for about $200 million without going through the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, several legislators said. A key Democrat said the State Assembly balked at the idea of tying Nassau and Suffolk together in a deal that could have included other counties seeking assistance.
"I believe the Senate would like to package together multiple counties," said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), dean of the Suffolk Assembly delegation. "They are looking at it as a package. We would rather take each separately and look at the merits."
He added that the aid requests could be considered in the second half of the legislative session.
Asked about the idea to bundle multiple counties' requests, Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said Sunday: "That is one of the things we have been fighting because there are many counties that want us to do something."
He added that there "have been phone calls to try and unbundle Suffolk" and, like Sweeney, noted the issues could be tackled after the state budget is completed. LaValle's remarks came before Skelos said the proposals would be considered at a later time. Other state legislators contacted Sunday declined to comment or said they were unaware of the specific proposals.
"The administration is working with the legislature on numerous initiatives outside the context of the budget," Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email.
Bellone administration officials had no immediate comment Sunday.
One Nassau Democrat declared the Nassau borrowing request would not gain political traction.
"This is going nowhere," said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), noting that Nassau made a similar unsuccessful request last year. "It is horrible policy. It would gut half a century of fiscal monitoring of municipalities in distress."