Nassau Republicans are using taxpayer resources less than a month before county elections to promote the message that they haven't raised taxes even though they have proposed or consented to two property tax hikes in two years.
County Executive Edward Mangano posted on his county Twitter account last month that he had submitted his "sixth no property tax hike budget" -- yet his 2015 budget included a 3.4 percent property tax increase while his 2016 spending plan proposes a 1.2 percent boost.
At least three GOP lawmakers last week mailed postcards at taxpayer expense boasting that they were "holding the line on property taxes!" listing "0%" tax increases for every year from 2011 through 2015, even though taxes went up 3.4 percent this year. Republican spokespersons did not respond when asked whether the other nine GOP legislators also were mailing the cards.
All 19 legislative seats are up for election Nov. 3.
Republicans say a state tax rebate available to homeowners who earn less than $500,000 a year negates the property tax hikes. But eligible homeowners would have received the rebates if there had been no tax increase. The rebates are not available for businesses.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who sent the mailing, criticized Newsday's coverage but did not answer specific questions about the mailings.
Democratic candidates accused Republicans of misleading constituents.
"Raising our taxes and then using taxpayer money to lie about raising our taxes is the lowest of the low," said Glen Head optometrist Dean Hart, a Democrat challenging freshman Legis. Donald MacKenzie (R-Oyster Bay), who mailed the postcard.
Claudia Borecky, a Democratic elections board employee who is challenging Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore), called for Rhoads to repay the cost of his mailing. Rhoads was elected in a March special election and was not a legislator when the county adopted its 2011 through 2015 budgets.
"This is so deceptive," Borecky said. "It says 'cutting wasteful spending.' I can't think of anything more wasteful than this."
Neither MacKenzie nor Rhoads responded to requests for comment.
Democrat Eileen Napolitano, who is challenging Gonsalves in the 13th District, called the mailing "outrageous. First, saying the Republicans didn't raise taxes this year is a blatant lie. Adding insult to injury, mailing the lie out at government expense forced the taxpayers to pay for it."
Republican spokeswoman Cristina Brennan declined to comment on the cost of the mailings. But she said in July that the cost of mailing a postcard to households in a Republican legislator's district was about $7,250.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the county executive's claim of six no property tax hike budgets was shortened because of Twitter limitations and that "full explanation" was on the county executive's Facebook page.
The page does not mention the 1.2 percent tax hike or the state rebate. It says, "While neighboring municipalities increased property taxes by double-digits, County Executive Mangano delivered a proposed County budget for 2016 that ensures households earning under $500,000 annually will not pay a net dime more than they did in 2010."
Acting Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat running this year, has twice urged the county legislature to adopt restrictions on government mailings.
"It's clear that the Legislature won't pass legislation to outlaw these self-promotional abuses of tax dollars, because they want to keep campaigning on the taxpayers' dime," she said Thursday. "Nassau residents don't want their tax dollars to be spent on politicians' self-promotional junk mail, and the legislature should pass the law we proposed to criminalize it."
A spokesman for Republican Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, who is running against Singas, did not respond to a request for comment.