Mangano, Bellone talk deficits, LI economy

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and new Suffolk

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and new Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone each described daunting challenges in dealing with deficits estimated at $310 million in Nassau and $100 million in Suffolk. (Jan. 13, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

The Nassau and Suffolk county executives on Friday touted visions for cutting their budget deficits and improving the region's depressed economy without raising taxes.

In speeches in Woodbury to the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and new Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone each described daunting challenges in dealing with deficits estimated at $310 million in Nassau and $100 million in Suffolk.

Bellone, who has named an outside panel to determine the size of Suffolk's budget gap, acknowledged that Suffolk is facing a "fiscal crisis that is no doubt going to be sobering when we understand the full depth of that crisis."

While ex-County Executive Steve Levy said his 2012 budget was balanced, lawmakers estimate the deficit at about $100 million.

Bellone, a Democrat, said Suffolk government will become smaller, more efficient and focus on economically viable projects that promote growth and jobs.

But the county will not raise taxes, he said.

"We cannot solve our fiscal problems by raising taxes," Bellone said. "We need to reform government. In fact, we need a paradigm shift in how we operate in this region if we are to create the kind of economy and the kind of growth that we have the potential for."

Mangano, a Republican, highlighted his administration's accomplishments over the past two years, including eliminating the home heating oil tax, privatization of Long Island Bus and inmate health care, and slashing $100 million in payroll costs.

"We are trying to do what many of you are doing in your own businesses and households -- which is cut waste, stretch that dollar, create efficiencies and leverage the assets that you have," Mangano said.

While he did not mention the Nassau Interim Finance Authority -- a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances -- or the failed Aug. 1 referendum to build a new Nassau Coliseum, Mangano acknowledged that some of his initiatives have come up short.

"I have put forth many proposals that have stimulated debate; some successful, some not," Mangano said. "But my intent in turning around the county was clear in all of these proposals."

Bellone, meanwhile, joked that he has an alternative if his plans don't work.

"We invited Tim Tebow to lead us in a prayer session," Bellone said. "The rest of the plan will come later."

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