Congratulations are due to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on his second victory over former Executive Thomas Suozzi. Last time Mangano triumphed by less than 1 percent of the vote. This time he crushed Suozzi by almost 20 percentage points.
Mangano knew what the voters wanted, no property tax increases, and he had a disciplined message: He hasn’t raised them, and he won’t raise them. Mangano, the Republican, was helped in his effort by a Democratic opponent who had raised taxes. Voters had no nostalgia for Suozzi, or for his era. Fellow Democrat and former Comptroller Howard Weitzman lost to Republican incumbent George Maragos, albeit by far less than Suozzi.
Now Mangano must be as good at governing as he is at politicking, and Maragos must get serious about his watchdog role.
The county assessment system is still broken. Mangano must fix it to get Nassau’s spending and revenue back in line. While his move to settle residential grievances before tax rolls are finalized saves the county $30 million a year, it also puts increases in tax bills on those who haven’t grieved. And commercial grievances cost the county $70 million per year. Fixing this, not just by settling nearly every claim, but by putting out accurate assessments for all owners, is the only solution.
Mangano has been negotiating new union contracts, hoping to persuade the Nassau Interim Finance Authority to lift the county wage freeze. That freeze, though, is his best friend, having saved Nassau $230 million. He needs the relief it gives him to get the county’s finances in order, rather than fighting to lift it while the coffers are empty.
Maragos can help with honest, nonpolitical analysis of the finances.
Mangano won because his main thrust was correct: Tax increases are not the solution. But if the county is to avert financial disaster, solutions are needed, and he needs to do more to institute them in his second term than he did in his first.