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Long IslandNassau

Lawmakers approve $2.95 billion Nassau budget

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County

Norma Gonsalves, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, questions county officials during a meeting of the legislature in Mineola on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The GOP-controlled Nassau Legislature passed County Executive Edward Mangano's 2016 budget Thursday but stripped out a 1.2 percent tax hike and slashed two fee increases -- likely setting the stage for a showdown with the county's fiscal control board.

The party-line 11-7 vote came after GOP lawmakers passed a package of amendments to replace the $28 million in revenue from the tax hike and fees. Legis. Fran Becker did not vote because of a death in the family.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the GOP's changes were "reasonable and obtainable" and "better reflect the priorities of our residents."

But Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county's finances, said the amendments did not address $191 million in risky revenue assumptions in Mangano's $2.95 billion budget.

"I am disappointed the legislature finds it so easy to disconnect from Nassau County's budget realities," he said. "We are going to take the actions of the legislature seriously and anticipate moving forward with our responsibility to get the county's finances in a better place sooner than later."

Kaiman declined to say if NIFA would reject the budget and return it to the legislature for changes. If NIFA were to reject those revisions, the board could impose changes, including a freeze on new hires, spending cuts for all departments and limiting approvals for new contracts, Kaiman said.

All county legislative seats are up for election Tuesday.

Mangano has 10 days to decide whether to veto the budget amendments, as he did last year when the legislature stripped out a 3.4 percent tax hike. NIFA declined to approve the amendments last year and lawmakers made no move to override the veto, allowing the tax increase to stand.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said officials would "review" the GOP amendments but declined to say if Mangano would issue a veto.

Gonsalves would not commit to overriding a possible Mangano veto, saying "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Gonsalves urged NIFA to accept the GOP plan. "We are on good solid ground and NIFA should be in our ballpark, and that's where I believe they may be heading," she said.

The GOP plan eliminated a property tax hike that would bring in $12 million in new annual revenue and cost the average homeowner $23, and cut planned increases in mortgage recording and tax map verification fees.

Republicans also would raise $15.8 million by enforcing a law that fines commercial property owners who fail to detail their business income and expenses.

The plan also cuts $7 million in county contracts for which spending has not occurred; reduces by $2 million the amount budgeted for debt service and trims $3.2 million in fringe benefits for employees who recently took a retirement incentive.

The GOP budget changes leave in place $20 million in budgeted revenue from a video gambling parlor that does not yet have a location.

"The county executive and Republican majority refuse to listen to the clear voice of the taxpayers who simply don't want a casino anywhere in Nassau," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).Republicans voted down a package of Democratic amendments that would eliminate the tax hike, the entire $42.7 million in fee increases and the video gambling revenue.

Democrats would replace that revenue with cuts to private legal contracts and reduced spending on part-time, seasonal and vacant positions.


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