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Assembly passes Nassau tax extenders

The Assembly passed tax extenders for Nassau County Tuesday after a deal was worked out to distribute an additional $1 million annually to the villages of Hempstead and Freeport.

Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), the Assembly's deputy speaker, said she and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, had signed a memorandum of understanding obligating the county to distribute the additional tax revenue to the villages.

Hooper, the dean of Nassau's Assembly delegation, had held up the vote because of what she said were "historical discriminatory practices" that shortchanged sales tax revenue going to the villages, which have large minority populations. Her sign-off was critical to getting the Assembly to pass the bill.

"I was not going to do it until I had a document to protect against discrimination through the act of distribution of funds and this is the first step in the correction," Hooper said. "We have to send a message to Nassau County that no longer will we tolerate systematic discriminatory practices."

The Senate passed the bills last week and Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) sponsored the bills in the Assembly. "It's a great example of both Republicans and Democrats working together to get this done for Nassau," Saladino said.

Pending a signature by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the legislation would extend Nassau County's authority to collect the taxes by two years, so they would expire on Nov. 30, 2013.

The two tax bills are worth about $320 million annually to the county. A sales tax extension brings in $317 million while a hotel/motel and entertainment tax brings in about $2.7 million. The villages' current share of the taxes combined total about $300,000, Hooper said.

Though the bills did not include any measures to address Hooper's concerns about discrimination, she said the memorandum included a commitment to make legislative changes in the future.

"We have agreed that the inequitable distribution will be corrected in the very near future," Hooper said. "The county has agreed through a [memorandum of understanding]to prevent a recurrence of this discriminatory type of funds recurring."

Hooper declined to provide a copy of the MOU.

Mangano's office declined to comment.

Hooper said that she and the black and Hispanic caucus voted against the bill in a sign of their clout, even though her approval allowed it to go to a floor vote.

The fate of red light camera bills is uncertain. Hooper has asked the county for a home rule message on her version of a bill while another bill was introduced by Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).

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