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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau union deals not soup yet

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) meeting in Uniondale on Oct. 9, 2013. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Hold up there, hoss.

There was something missing in the weekend announcement of new deals between Nassau and its employee unions: There is no deal yet.

There may be proposed deals, or maybe even support for proposed deals.

But until the proposals -- and that's the right word -- make it through the Nassau County Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state control board overseeing county finances, the deals are not final.

Let's not be naive.

If Nassau's Republican majority wants to push it through the legislature, they will.

And if the control board, with a majority appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, wants the deal done, it will be done.

Behind the scenes, there appear to be three forces at work.

There's the this-is-a-fine-deal contingent. That includes union leaders, NIFA head Jon Kaiman and County Executive Edward Mangano.

There's the are-you-kidding-me contingent, which believes that there is no way in the world that even with new revenue from traffic cameras, Nassau can afford to fund the deals. That would include former NIFA board member George Marlin, who blasted the proposed agreement, Mangano and Kaiman on his Street Corner Conservative blog.

Then there's the let's-give-it-a-try crowd, which believes that union workers have had their wages frozen for too long and that has to end. This is the contingent that believes that if it turns out, a year or two down the road, that Nassau can't afford the deals then Kaiman and Mangano can try something else.

As of yesterday evening, there was no trace of paperwork on weekend deals on file in the Nassau County clerk's office.

That means that the weekend announcement involved proposals that have yet to be widely distributed, or analyzed for fiscal impact on a county that is almost a billion dollars in debt for successful residential and commercial property assessment appeals alone.

Nassau has been operating on a cash-thin margin for some time. And some behind the scenes who believe the county possibly could run out of cash to meet payroll in the fall.

A move to end the freeze would be welcome.

For three years, wages that should have gone to county employees have gone to help fund other things -- such as a $20,000 salary increase for County Comptroller George Maragos' secretary and top aides to other county elected officials.

That's not right.

Over the past two decades in Nassau, there have been other deals -- said to be one thing, but turning out to be something else.

Usually, whether the county was controlled by Democrats or Republicans, that meant the pacts were not affordable.

In the short term, those flawed deals always seemed to help politicians the most. They could brag about getting a deal done, or head toward elections with valued union support.

But in the end, somebody always got hurt.

Who? County employees who, if their contracts allowed layoffs lost their jobs. If their contracts banned layoffs, they were left to do more work as colleagues took retirement incentives.

Then there are Nassau residents, who after two decades of fiscal problems have not seen taxes decrease -- even as the quality and quantity of county services have.

So, let's take a breather and actually have a good, hard look at these proposals. The last thing Nassau -- its employees or its residents -- needs is another false start.

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