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Nassau likely to OK Coliseum bond vote

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang with Nassau

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray announce they are putting forth a county wide public referendum to build a ballpark and a new state of the art Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Howard Schnapp). Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature Tuesday is expected to pass a bill allowing the public to vote on whether to borrow up to $400 million to build a new hockey arena for the New York Islanders and a minor league baseball field.

The 11-member Republican majority will vote to allow the referendum to go forward on Aug. 1 despite efforts by Democrats to move the vote back by several months, said Ed Ward, spokesman for presiding officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa).

An amendment by Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) would postpone the referendum to Primary Day, Sept. 13, while Legis. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) wants the vote held on Election Day, Nov. 8.

The Democrats say that delaying the vote would save the cost of holding a special midsummer election, estimated by the Office of Legislative Budget Review at between $1.6 million and $2.2 million.

Republicans, however, said a clearer picture of local sentiment will emerge if voters are coming to the polls solely for the borrowing issue, rather than a raft of other electoral contests. "This would not be an accurate reflection of voter intent," Ward said of a Primary Day vote.

Minority Leader Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) said her caucus remains undecided on the referendum. One concern, she said, is a lack of details about a proposed arrangement in which the Islanders and the baseball team would share revenues with Nassau. "Since the administration has failed to provide real information on how their proposal will work, we may consider offering our own suggestions," she said.

Several other Democratic amendments will come up for vote Tuesday. Wink has recommended requiring the county to issue a request for proposals before developing the rest of the Nassau Coliseum property. Denenberg, meanwhile, wants to mandate that any revenue generated from the new facilities come in under a separate tax line to assure the costs of the bonds are offset. Currently, the revenue would go into the county's general fund.

Irrespective of their amendments' passage, Wink and Denenberg say they are leaning toward voting in favor of putting the issue before voters.

Today's vote requires a simple majority, and Democrats do not have the votes to block or delay the referendum.

If voters approve the borrowing, the legislature would need to vote to approve the bonding; a supermajority of 13 votes would be required for passage. The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state fiscal watchdog, also would have to approve the bonding. NIFA has been critical of the borrowing plan.

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