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Judge tosses Dems' suit over Nassau budget

Justice Robert A. Bruno dismissed all arguments made

Justice Robert A. Bruno dismissed all arguments made by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), pictured here, and five other Democratic legislators that County Executive Edward Mangano did not have the legal right to reinstate the tax hike after lawmakers removed it from Nassau's adopted 2015 budget last fall. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau Supreme Court justice on Monday threw out a lawsuit filed by Nassau Democratic lawmakers that alleged the county's 2015 budget and its 3.4 percent property tax increase were illegal.

Justice Robert A. Bruno dismissed all arguments made by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) and five other Democratic legislators that County Executive Edward Mangano did not have the legal right to reinstate the tax hike after lawmakers removed it from Nassau's adopted 2015 budget last fall.

Bruno said Mangano had the legal authority to veto the legislature's removal of his property tax hike. Bruno, a Conservative Party member originally appointed to District Court by former Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi and the then-Democrat-controlled county legislature, also said the $2.98 billion budget became official when the legislature did not act within seven days to override his veto.

Mangano's property tax hike was estimated to boost revenue by $31 million. The Republican-controlled legislature amended his proposed budget in October to remove the tax hike and replaced the revenue through other measures.

Mangano vetoed those amendments within the 10-day deadline stipulated by the county charter. Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) declined to call a meeting to override Mangano's vetoes, citing concerns expressed by the county's financial control board about financial risks associated with the budget amendments.

Democrats sued Mangano and Gonsalves on Dec. 30, two days before general tax bills were mailed out based on the 2015 budget."Under the terms of the [county] Charter, once the legislature did not override those vetoes, the Legislature's budget, as changed by the county executive's vetoes, became the county's adopted budget," Bruno wrote in a 24-page decision. "The petitioners' dissatisfaction with the presiding officer's refusal to call a meeting to consider an override does not undermine the final status of the budget."

Abrahams called it a "sad day for the already burdened Nassau taxpayer and we will be reviewing our next possible legal steps in the coming days."

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement that "it's time for the Legislature to come together in a bipartisan manner to move government forward for the people. This was a frivolous lawsuit."

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