Assemb. Earlene Hooper, deputy speaker of the State Assembly, vowed Tuesday to block nearly $300 million in sales tax revenue to Nassau County because of what she called legislative attacks "on minorities, the poor and Democrats," including a controversial redistricting proposal.
Her remarks came as a state appellate court judge in Mineola Wednesday stayed a temporary restraining order that barred the Nassau legislature from voting on a new redistricting map. The decision by Associate Justice Joseph Covello of the Second Department means the Republican-controlled legislature could adopt new district lines as early as Monday.
Hooper (D-Hempstead) criticized in particular Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's heavy cuts in youth services, which she said hit hardest in her predominantly minority 18th Assembly District, and the proposed redistricting, which would turn four current Democratic districts into two and would, some say, reduce minority power.
"If the county is going to be partial, I will hold things up until they realize they must be fair and equitable," Hooper, the dean of Long Island's Albany delegation, said in telephone interview.
What she could hold up is renewal of Nassau's 1.25 percent sales tax extension, which expires Nov. 30, as well its hotel-motel tax, which generates about $2.7 million a year and expires Dec. 31. Nassau's share of sales tax -- 4.25 percent -- accounts for 40 percent of its $2.6 billion annual budget.
But county officials disagreed with Hooper's criticism.
"County Executive [Edward] Mangano has worked with the deputy speaker over the past year in a cooperative manner on many projects [and] respectfully disagrees with [her] position and urges her to reconsider it . . . and consider its effect on our residents and the services they depend upon," said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.
The Nassau Legislature's presiding officer, Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), could not be reached but has said publicly as recently as Monday that his redistricting proposal is meant to reconcile itself with the latest census data and would give minorities an opportunity to add another representative to the two they already have. The legislature has 19 members.
But Minority Leader Diane Yatauro of Glen Cove said: "Assemblywoman Hooper feels alienated and abandoned. Our caucus feel much the same way."
Nevin said county officials are willing to talk with Hooper. "The administration remains at the ready to address any questions she may have with respect to Nassau County issues," he said.
As for the lifting of the restraining order on any redistricting vote, Ed Ward, a spokesman for Schmitt, said lawmakers have yet to decide to proceed. If they do adopt an amended map, he said, it could be used for this fall's elections.
But Democratic lawyer Steven Schlesinger said the case will go to an appellate panel Monday. "We expect a decision that will clearly show they can't use the map for the 2011."
County Democrats last week sued Republican lawmakers, arguing the hastily drawn map violates the redistricting process mandated by the county charter. Republicans counter that the charter requires new lines within six months of release of the U.S. Census on April 1.State Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger enjoined the legislature from adopting a new map for 2011, but Covello agreed with the county attorney's office that Jaeger could not stop lawmakers from voting.