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Divide over funding in Nassau's new green energy bill

The Nassau County Legislature approved a green energy bill Monday that some Democrats in the Republican-led body said relied only on potential state and federal financing, and failed to include local funding.

But Republican County Executive Edward Mangano said he had addressed those concerns with a second bill that asks the state to allow the county to issue $5 million in bonds for such a program - far short of the $25 million in county funds he had suggested during his election campaign last year. The bill was filed on Friday and Mangano said he hopes it will go through legislative committees on April 12.

He said the funding was only for a partial year, and it might be expanded next year.

Mangano added that it was always his intention to submit both bills, and that he submitted the first bill because it created the mechanism that allowed the county to have loans repaid through the borrower's property tax bill.

Mangano pointed out that he had introduced a similar bill last July when he was the Republican county legislator from Bethpage, but it never went anywhere in the legislature. The legislature was then controlled by Democrats, but now has a GOP majority.

A green energy measure that did pass last year was sponsored by Democratic Legis. David Denenberg of Merrick, and it would have created a county-funded, green loan program. Neither former County Executive Thomas Suozzi nor Mangano implemented it.

"A local law for the county to apply for federal or state grants is feel-good legislation at its worst and should make people feel mad; you don't need a county law to apply for federal or state grants," Denenberg said of the first Mangano bill.

"Instead, Nassau residents deserve what was promised - a county-funded loan program to begin June 1 as provided in my resolution," he said.

The Republican presiding officer, Legis. Peter Schmitt, noted that Mangano had introduced the second bill, and said he would not set "an artificial timeline" by requiring a June 1 start date.

Under the program, home and business owners would qualify for the low-interest loans to make structural improvements that lowered energy costs. Central air conditioning would qualify, but window air conditioners would not; weatherization would be covered, but a low-energy appliance, like a refrigerator, would not, Mangano aides said.

The bill passed Monday allows Mangano to issue rules for accepting state and federal grants - the only two sources of funding that county attorney John Ciampoli mentioned in testimony before legislative committees earlier this month.

Asked why Ciampoli had not mentioned the local funding, even under questioning by legislators, Mangano replied on Friday: "This is today. This is what I've decided to do."

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