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Nassau lawmakers say they will vote down Mangano property tax increase

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. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

All 19 Republicans and Democrats in the Nassau Legislature announced Wednesday that they will vote down County Executive Edward Mangano's proposed 2016 budget because it contains a 1.2 percent property tax increase.

The lawmakers, all of whom are up for re-election Nov. 3, said in separate statements that residents could not afford the tax hike, which amounts to $23 for the average homeowner.

"This Republican majority will pass a no tax increase budget," said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), who made the announcement on the eve of Thursday's legislative hearing on fellow Republican Mangano's $2.95 billion budget.

"It's clear that Nassau residents are feeling the pinch of high taxes and the thought that the Republican administration can't come up with $12 million worth of spending cuts in a $3 billion budget . . . to avoid a county tax hike is simply ridiculous and frankly unacceptable," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday night about the GOP opposition to the tax hike.

Earlier Wednesday, Nevin accused Democrats of "fighting to protect the uber-rich who earn over $500,000 a year yet oppose County Executive Mangano's plan that protects middle and lower income families from any net increase in taxes."

The county has struggled in recent years to close annual budget gaps, and Mangano has said the 2016 tax hike is needed to balance the budget.

Mangano also said a state program for homeowners will provide rebates in the amount of the tax increase. Because the program applies to municipalities that stay under the state property tax cap, residents would get the rebate regardless of whether a tax hike is enacted. Businesses and homeowners earning more than $500,000 are not eligible for the rebate.

Gonsalves spokesman Frank Moroney declined to say how Republicans, who have a 12-7 majority, will replace the $12 million in new revenue the tax hike would produce. However, "it should not be hard to come up with," Moroney said.Democrats say they will propose budget cuts, including steep reductions in outside legal contracts, to cover the lost property tax revenues.

Last year, Mangano proposed a 3.4 percent property tax hike. Lawmakers stripped that out and substituted seven budget amendments to replace $31 million in expected new tax revenue.

Mangano vetoed the legislative amendments, saying they contained "risky one-shot revenues and expense reductions that violate sound budget practice."

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board that controls the county's finances, said it would not approve the budget if it included the legislative amendments, saying they relied on speculative revenue and tactics prohibited by the board. The legislature made no move to override Mangano's budget veto, and the tax hike stood.

NIFA member Chris Wright said Wednesday that if lawmakers pass a 2016 budget that does not rely on recurring and sustainable revenue, the board for the first time could impose its own budget changes.

"If the budget is out of balance and the county does not balance it, this may be the year where we have to," Wright said.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said the board was prepared to shut down all "nonessential spending" if presented with a budget it could not support.

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