ALBANY - More than $300 million in annual sales tax revenue for Nassau County hung in the balance Thursday as state lawmakers tried to close down the 2015 legislative session.
Revisiting a battle fought four years ago, Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) is seeking to secure a portion of the county's annual sales tax revenue for two villages in her district, Freeport and Hempstead. She introduced a bill that would renew Nassau County's authorization to impose sales taxes, but only if the county directs $2 million to Freeport and $2.5 million to Hempstead. Her bill was stuck in committee as of late Thursday.
The Republican-led Senate already has approved a bill to renew the tax with no strings attached.
The legislature's two houses must agree on an identical bill -- the Senate's, Hooper's or some compromise -- before adjourning. Otherwise, the county's authorization to collect the taxes expires Nov. 30.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, wants to continue tax collections as is -- with no carve-out for the two villages. "The county shares revenue with the villages based on an equitable formula, therefore I support extending the present legislation rather than creating an inequity and giving away county funds in a time when sales tax revenue is not proportionately growing," he said in an email. "However, if the state holds the county hostage we will have no choice but to accept what the Legislature passes in the closing hours of session."
Hooper didn't immediately return a call to comment.
At least one Republican wasn't happy with the standoff. "It's unacceptable that one person can hold up tax revenue for an entire county," said Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola).
In 2011, Hooper blocked reauthorization of the county sales tax because she believed the Mangano administration had shortchanged the villages in the county budget. They worked out an agreement to send Freeport and Hempstead $500,000 each, but it fell apart when Nassau Comptroller George Maragos rejected the payments.