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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau lawmakers prep to erase Mangano's 2016 tax hike, but likely face veto

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, questions county officials during a meeting of the legislature in Mineola on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nassau lawmakers likely are going to pass a no-tax-increase budget by week's end.

Oh, who am I kidding, lawmakers absolutely, positively will do it.

Which sets them up just fine come Election Day, when they will say, and with accuracy, that they voted to kill County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed property tax hike.

Under the county charter, Nassau lawmakers are required to pass a budget before Election Day. That was part of a charter reform more than a decade ago meant to clue residents in on tax and salary increases before -- rather than after -- an election.

But here's the thing.

The budget lawmakers pass -- like some tardy Halloween zombie -- will rise again.

That's because amendments offered by majority Republicans (and minority Democrats, who don't have enough votes to push their own agenda) likely will be vetoed by Mangano.

Lawmakers' changes to Mangano's budget had been filed with the clerk's office for less than 24 hours when Jon Kaiman, head of the state control board overseeing county finances, labeled them "insufficient" to balance the budget.

And what were the amendments?

Democrats filed a document that was more news release than government or financial statement. It even had a title:

"No Tax Increase, No Fee Increase, No Casino, Reform and FY 2016 Budget Proposed Legislative Minority Democratic Amendments."

The delegation followed up with an actual news release criticizing the Republicans' document as "Pro-Casino, Fee Increase, Non-Reform Budget Amendments."


As for substance, Democrats said reform of Nassau's flawed contracting system would save $5 million, but offered no details.

They also wanted to reduce spending on outside attorney contracts by $2 million. The delegation believes that the county attorney's office -- which was severely reduced when Mangano substantially increased the amount of legal work handled by outside counsel -- would not have to grow.

Which probably is unlikely.

Democrats recommended reducing the number of seasonal parks employees -- for a $750,000 savings.

And here they may be on to something, as evidenced by Newsday stories that found politically connected part-timers earning more than some of the highest-paid civil service employees.

How much more could Nassau taxpayers save by eliminating patronage bloat, from parks to the Board of Elections?

The mind boggles. But that, alas, was not part of either party's amendments.

Republicans appeared to be more grounded in their amendments by at least acknowledging that Nassau needs new revenue streams.

So, while scrubbing away the proposed property tax increase, they left in Mangano's proposed fee increases -- but at half the budgeted amount.

Republicans also recommended pulling in revenue by fining commercial property owners who fail to file income and expense statements.

Commercial property owners sued to block the fine, but the county won a recent court decision. Still, the revenue will be iffy, since the owners likely will appeal. Republicans and Democrats both contend that their amendments are enough to dropkick the proposed tax increase, while providing enough savings and revenue to keep the budget balanced.

But as the Nassau Interim Finance Authority repeatedly has pointed out, the proposed budget -- even with the tax increase -- already had problems.

That means the control board likely won't accept the legislature's amendments.

Which means Mangano likely will veto lawmakers' work.

Which, unless lawmakers come back with other ideas, means the tax increase will stand.

After the election.


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