The central question in the race between Tom Suozzi and...

The central question in the race between Tom Suozzi and Edward Mangano is what to do about the county's tenuous finances. Credit: Howard Schnapp

One thing Nassau residents will hear over and over from Edward Mangano in the county executive campaign is that the state control board overseeing the county's finances cut opponent Thomas Suozzi significant slack.

Mangano also will say -- as he has for most of his term -- that the Nassau Interim Finance Authority did a complete U-turn after Mangano, a Republican, beat Suozzi, a Democrat, during the last campaign in 2009.

For the record, Mangano is absolutely right.

NIFA did cut Suozzi significant slack.

The board at first criticized Suozzi for attempting to count borrowed money as revenue to balance his budget.

Then NIFA turned around and accepted an opinion from the county's bond attorney that doing so was OK.

In his first joint campaign appearance with Suozzi at the Garden City Hotel last week, Mangano repeated his complaint -- saying that his budget would be balanced and NIFA long gone if the authority had given his administration the same break they gave Suozzi.

Mangano has been consistent on the inequity, which became part of a lawsuit Nassau filed early in his administration in a failed attempt to keep NIFA from becoming a more muscular control board.

NIFA during the Suozzi administration primarily had offered advisory opinions. But since the board took control of Nassau's finances in January 2011, it has had the power to block county budgets, significant contracts and labor agreements.

What happened?

The budget Mangano proposed in 2011, his second year in office, triggered a more aggressive NIFA -- fresh with appointees from then-Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat -- because it included a greater than 1 percent gap between county revenue and expenses.

Mangano argued that his proposed budget, like Suozzi's, should have been approved as balanced, even though it included borrowing as revenue.

This time around, NIFA adhered to generally accepted accounting principles and said no.

In one court hearing, lawyers for NIFA argued that the authority made a mistake in accepting the borrowed-money-as-revenue opinion from Suozzi's counsel.

Lawyers for the administration argued that Mangano ought to be able to benefit from the same NIFA decision that had worked for Suozzi.

The tortured logic defied sense then, as it does now.

NIFA's decision may have helped Suozzi escape a full-blown control board. But the decision ended up dragging out Nassau's financial problems.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently shook up the NIFA board by appointing three members, including a new chairman. It'll be interesting to see whether the board, in considering Mangano's proposed 2014 budget, allows him to count borrowed money as revenue.

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