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Andrew Cuomo budget plan cuts state funding for LI marine patrols

A Suffolk County police marine boat with a

A Suffolk County police marine boat with a search dog looks for missing kayaker Kevin Conley in Lake Ronkonkoma on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

New York State would halve how much it reimburses Nassau and Suffolk for marine police patrols under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s new budget plan.

If the State Legislature agrees, Suffolk and Nassau would each lose $100,000 in annual aid.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he’s working to prevent the cut by “reaching out to legislative representatives.”

Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said the Suffolk Police Department’s marine unit is crucial — protecting the boating public and residents of the barrier islands — and should be shielded from budget reductions.

The number of people killed in recreational boating accidents in New York has fallen due to improved boat designs, mandatory safety classes and crackdowns on boating while intoxicated. But there were still 27 deaths statewide in 2014, records show.

Richard Werner, president of Bethpage-based Safe Boating America, which offers boating safety courses, said funding for marine police should be increased, not pruned.

“There currently are not enough law enforcement out on the water to enforce the current laws to keep boating safe,” he said.

Westchester and New York City also would each lose $100,000 in state funding under the budget plan.

Cuomo’s proposal would save the state about $900,000 annually.

A few legislators criticized the proposal when Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, whose role includes boating safety, testified in late January.

Noting how local governments are struggling with property tax caps, Sen. Betty Little (R-Glens Falls) said the marine police reimbursement rate should be raised to the original 75 percent, not cut further.

Harvey said her agency provides other local support, buying six boats for local marine police departments every year and offering thousands of hours of free training. Topics range from navigation to spotting impaired boaters, her spokeswoman said.

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