Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Friday submitted legislation that would give him the power to tap years-old bonding authority so he can borrow millions of dollars for tax refunds.
The bill would allow Mangano to circumvent the legislature, where 13 members, including at least three Democrats, are needed to approve borrowing. Passage would require a simple majority of the GOP-controlled legislature.
Mangano still would need bonding approval from the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances. NIFA has said it will not approve any new borrowing until Mangano finds $150 million in recurring labor savings.
"There is bonding authority that has not been used but which is statutorily valid," County Attorney John Ciampoli said.
The bill came a day after administration officials confirmed they were seeking state authority to borrow at least $41 million for tax refunds without having to seek approval of the legislature or NIFA.
Officials said Thursday they also were considering a bill asking the state for authority to use $192 million in borrowing authorized by the legislature in 2004 and 2005 to pay property tax refunds -- as the new county measure also would allow. At the time, NIFA issued bonds in that amount on the county's behalf. Administration officials say the authority is still valid because the bonds were not issued by the county.
The possible state bill would allow Mangano to circumvent both the county legislature and NIFA, while the county bill would only end-run the legislature. Ciampoli said Nassau was pursuing the legislation to demonstrate to NIFA that the current legislature backs the use of unused bonding authority.
Democrats say they will block Mangano's efforts to borrow for tax refunds until the GOP details why the bonding is necessary and commits to legislative redistricting that is "fairer" than a plan the GOP has proposed. "This is just Ed Mangano's latest pointless attempt to . . . fulfill his insatiable appetite for borrowing," Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said.
State Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said Mangano's maneuvers are "illegal" and would be challenged in court.
Jacobs said Friday he has received commitments from Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) and Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) they would not support such a measure. He has yet to hear from Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), who said she is still "pondering my decision." All Long Island state senators are Republicans, as is Mangano.
Lavine said he has "grave concerns over reported attempts to subvert the governmental process" but that he has yet to see the proposal. Weisenberg said he couldn't say how he will vote because he hasn't seen the proposal. Calls to Schimel were not returned.
Jacobs warned of "serious consequences" against any state Democrat who votes for the proposal, and would not discount the idea of running primaries against members. "No one should take the Nassau Democratic Committee or the nominating process for granted," he said.
Hooper responded: "I've been primaried before."
With Sid Cassese