Levy's parting gift: year-end budget vetoes

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (Dec. 7, 2011) Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (Dec. 7, 2011) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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As he packs up his office, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is taking a few final shots at legislators, vetoing several of their revenue-generating measures in next year's budget.

Levy announced Tuesday that he has rejected six bills recently passed by lawmakers: increases in fees for tax map verification, real property databases, parks, the medical examiner and planning commission, as well as a rollback of the county gasoline tax cap.

The five fee increases are estimated to bring the county about $6 million in 2012, mainly from tax map verifications. The rollback of the cap on taxes on the wholesale price of gasoline above $3 a gallon is projected to create from $3 million to $7 million in additional revenue, depending on gasoline prices.

"When you nickel-and-dime the taxpayer to death, it can get very annoying to the average resident," said Levy, whose term ends Saturday. "I tried to stay consistent in dealing with this budget, without having a property tax or major fee increase."

Levy's 2012 spending plan froze taxes and fees, but proposed closing the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank and laying off 710 employees if unions didn't agree to health care contributions.

The legislature's budget saved all but 88 of those jobs by increasing police district taxes in Suffolk's five western towns, tapping reserves and tobacco settlement funds and increasing a series of fees.

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More than 600 of the spared jobs are only funded for six months. Levy maintains his $2.7-billion budget was balanced, but lawmakers -- while adopting some of his disputed revenue projections -- say he leaves a $100-million hole.

Michael Pitcher, a spokesman for Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), said Tuesday that the legislature expected the vetoes, and that override votes will take place at the first legislative meeting of the year.

The gas tax cap rollback was the only bill that didn't originally receive the 12 votes needed for an override.

"I don't think these increases were necessary," Levy said. "There were alternatives on the table that I laid out. The legislature just rejected them."

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