Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that Nassau County and a state control board should work together to solve the county's fiscal crisis, offering his first comments on a proposal seeking state approval to allow Nassau to borrow millions of dollars and bypass oversight.
County Executive Edward Mangano is seeking state authorization to borrow tens of millions of dollars to pay property tax settlements without having to seek approval of the county legislature or the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls the county's finances.
"Nassau has financial issues and it has NIFA," Cuomo told reporters in Albany. "They should be working together on these issues. That's the theory. That's the concept here. That's what I would like to see happen. Bypassing NIFA, bypassing the county legislature, obviously raises all sorts of questions. More debt raises all sorts of questions."
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin and NIFA chairman Ron Stack each declined to comment on Cuomo's statement.
Mangano wants the GOP-controlled State Senate and Democratic-led Assembly to approve legislation authorizing him to borrow to pay residents and business owners who are owed tax refunds. It is unclear how much borrowing authority Mangano is requesting from the state, as a bill has not been submitted.
Mangano also introduced county legislation last week that would allow him to tap $192 million in borrowing authorized by the legislature in 2004 and 2005 to pay the property-tax refunds.
Borrowing requires 13 votes in the county legislature, including all 10 Republicans and three of the nine Democrats. Democrats have rebuffed Mangano's efforts to borrow for tax refunds until Republicans commit to legislative redistricting that is "fairer" than a plan the GOP has proposed.
NIFA has said it will not authorize borrowing for tax refunds until Mangano finds $150 million in recurring labor savings. The board has said Mangano has found $90 million in savings at most.
At their nominating convention Tuesday, Nassau Democrats passed a resolution stating that any member of their caucus who supports Mangano's plan should "not expect the support" of the party.
Nevin responded in a statement Wednesday that blamed Democrats, who ran the county from 2002-09, for leaving Mangano with a massive budget deficit.
"It's shameful and disturbing that Nassau County Democrat Party boss Jay Jacobs is threatening political retribution to any elected official that works in a bipartisan fashion to implement this plan and prevent a property tax hike," Nevin said.
Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) has said she will consider voting for Mangano's plan to ensure that youth programs in her district are funded.
Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said he hasn't taken a position yet, but is troubled by the county "running" to Albany rather than "county leaders working this out. . . . To come up here and try to make an end run is to ignore their constitutional responsibility to run the county."
Nassau's four Democratic Assembly members huddled for about an hour after the chamber adjourned Wednesday to discuss Mangano's proposal. They reached no consensus on a recommendation, Weisenberg said.