Editorial: Nassau pols finally find some common ground
After almost 20 months of partisan mudslinging that stalled the payment of tax refunds and the restoration of funding to social service programs, the Nassau County Legislature quietly and quickly made a deal last week. Amazing, isn't it, that common ground can be found in an election year.
The Democrats finally gave the Republicans, who are in control, the supermajority the GOP needs to borrow for tax certoriari refunds. The county will seek $40 million now and $35 million in late September. Another $20 million will come from operating revenue. Most of the $95 million first will go toward paying refunds to individual homeowners and then to the owners of commercial properties. That makes sense.
And the agreement restores $2.3 million in funding to strapped social service agencies and their clients, who were caught in the political crossfire between the two parties.
Funding for those agencies was supposed to come from the fines generated by red-light cameras. But last year Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and the GOP legislators directed that revenue to the general fund. The dispute further intensified when the Democrats held up the borrowing as a bargaining chip to get changes in the new electoral maps drawn by the GOP legislature. The Democrats extracted a few changes on the maps but still didn't agree to the borrowing.
That frustrated many of their own supporters in the social services agencies desperate for their funding. Youth agencies and mental health and addiction services were severely cut in 2012 and 2013.
With local legislative elections just five months away, and pressure on both parties, a deal was finally cut. There are still property owners who won't get refunds, and the service agencies that help the most vulnerable residents are at risk of becoming hostages in the next budget cycle.
Now that both sides spit out this hairball, however, perhaps some comity can return to the effort of solving Nassau's other fiscal problems.