Suffolk bill seeking state fiscal help killed in committee

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A Republican lawmaker's proposal to seek state help in dealing with Suffolk County's fiscal problems was killed in the Democrat-led budget committee Tuesday, with lawmakers saying it could severely limit the county's options.

A bill sponsored by Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) called for the county to seek the aid of the newly created Financial Restructuring Board of Local Government to help end Suffolk's structural deficit and reliance on one-shot revenue.

Presiding Officer Wayne R. Horsley (D-Babylon) labeled the proposal "abhorrent," because "it would abrogate our responsibility for oversight of the budget."

Connie Corso, County Executive Steve Bellone's budget director, said seeking state help "could put you in a very awkward position" if the panel recommended measures such as mass layoffs that local officials consider too severe.

"This is not a message we want to send," said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), noting the county has made progress in resolving its fiscal issues.

The 10-member state board so far has received only one request for help, from the City of Fulton in Oswego County near Syracuse, a state budget spokesman said. The board is expected to meet within the next several weeks to consider the request.

The restructuring board can only make recommendations, but municipalities can be eligible for up to $5 million in aid if they follow the suggestions.

Cilmi's proposal was tabled subject to call, meaning it will not come up again in committee or before the full legislature unless Cilmi tries to resurrect it with a new vote.

Cilmi, who was not at the committee meeting Tuesday, said he was disappointed but not ready to give up.

"My feeling is, if the budget is balanced, then what are they worried about?" he asked. "But the last I heard, the state comptroller said our county is one of the most distressed in the state."

He was referring to a report last month in which State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli listed Suffolk as being in worse financial condition than Nassau.

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