Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is pressing Albany lawmakers to pass legislation that would provide an end run around Democratic county legislators and state watchdogs who are balking at tens of millions of dollars in borrowing for tax settlements.
One option would give Mangano the authority to borrow at least $41 million without approval of the legislature or the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances, Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said. Another would allow Mangano to use $192 million in bonds authorized by the legislature in 2004 and 2005.
NIFA has said it will not approve any new borrowing until Mangano finds $150 million in recurring labor savings. Legislative Democrats have said they won't support tax-settlement borrowing until majority Republicans detail why it's necessary and also commit to a legislative redistricting plan that is "fairer" than a plan already proposed by the GOP.
"We are in discussion with the Assembly and the Senate and are looking at ways to assure that youth programs get funded and residents and commercial property owners get the dollars they are entitled to," Walker said.
Democrats accused Mangano of overreaching.
"This move in Albany shows the county executive's level of desperation," Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, (D-Freeport) said.
“Mangano is asking the state to ignore the state control board. What kind of craziness is that?”
Mangano wants to borrow at least $41 million to pay commercial property owners who are owed refunds, but needs 13 votes in the county legislature, including at least three Democrats. Republicans have a 10-9 advantage in the legislature. The administration says that without the borrowing, it will furlough county employees and redirect roughly $8 million in red-light camera revenues from youth programs to the county's general fund.
The prospects for new state legislation to help Mangano were unclear Thursday, though some Assembly Democrats appeared willing to consider the idea.
Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) said she is considering voting for the plan, in part to protect youth programs in her district.
"I don't know what I am going to do," Hooper said. "I am going to spend this weekend looking at the issue."
"I have to be open-minded," added Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck). "I have to see if it is legal and can work."
“I would have to see the proposal and the legislation before making a determination,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
But Peter Clines, general counsel to the Nassau legislative Democrats, said the caucus would consider fighting Mangano's proposal in court if the state enacts it.
"I would be stunned if the state decides on an additional bailout for Nassau County to the exclusion of other counties and municipalities around the state who are in equally dire straits and are working harder than Mangano to fix things," Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said.
Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), said, "Senator Skelos met with the county executive about the county's finances and bonding," but declined further comment. Michael Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said, "The speaker will confer with the Nassau delegation next week."
Mangano, who met with Skelos in Albany on Monday to request state intervention, has floated at least two proposals to state lawmakers.
One idea, Walker said, is for the county to issue new bonds to pay commercial tax refunds, without approval of the county legislature or NIFA.
A second plan would allow Nassau to use $192 million in borrowing authorized by the county legislature in 2004 and 2005 for tax refunds. At the time, the legislature asked NIFA to issue bonds in that amount on its behalf. Since the bonds were issued by NIFA and not the county itself, the borrowing authority is still valid, Walker said.
The county, he said, confirmed this position with its bond counsel, Thomas Myers of the Manhattan firm Orrick, Herrington,& Sutcliffe LLP.
NIFA Chairman Ron Stack and a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who would have to sign any state legislation, declined to comment Thursday.
With Yancey Roy