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Long IslandNassau

Outlook unclear for Nassau's tax refund settlements

Nassau legislator Kevan Abrahams speaks about Nassau bonding

Nassau legislator Kevan Abrahams speaks about Nassau bonding issue and the possible appointment of the county executive to enact pay freezes and layoffs without legislative approval in Mineola. (May 7, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Republicans on a Nassau legislative committee Monday approved more than $33 million in tax refund settlements and the required borrowing, but minority Democrats signaled the bill may fail in the full legislature.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) later criticized the committee action as "blatantly unlawful" because it "improperly combines approval of the settlements -- which requires only a simple majority -- with bonding authorization."

The GOP has a 10-9 majority, and bonding requires a minimum two-thirds majority.

Democrats have said they won't support the borrowing until the Republicans detail why it's necessary, and also commit to a legislative redistricting plan that is "fairer" than a proposed GOP plan. The State Court of Appeals ruled last year that the GOP had failed to comply with the county charter in its push to get new lines in place before the 2011 elections.

Asked about Abrahams' statement about the illegality of the bonding authorization, Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, (R-Massapequa), said only: "The Democrats either will approve it [borrowing] or they won't."

In a related matter, county officials sought and won approval from the Finance Committee to remove youth, senior and other human service programs and contractors as the dedicated recipients of red-light camera revenues, which last amounted to almost $12 million. Under the measure, the money would go into the county's general fund.

"We wouldn't be in this position if we hadn't inherited a $310 million deficit," said Legis. Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).

"This amendment was drawn in order to provide Nassau County with greater flexibility . . . in the use of these funds so we would not be caught short."

But George Siberon, executive director of the Hispanic Civic Association in Hempstead, which provides contracted services to the county youth board, said he was "saddened that this administration has gone back on its word. I was one of those who went to Albany to lobby for the cameras. To now say the money is going to the general fund is shocking and distressful."

Also Monday:

The Finance Committee approved a bill to give the county executive authority to unilaterally cut $40 million from the budget without having to seek legislative approval. Abrahams said a referendum is required to cede legislative powers to another branch of government.

A committee approved the purchase of a 4-acre property in Freeport from developer Gary Melius that Nassau had sold to him 26 years ago for $1.4 million. Mangano proposes to finance the $6.22 million open space purchase through a 2006 environmental bond act and open space fund.

The full legislature is scheduled to meet on May 21.The Health and Human Services committee approved a proposal to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana. The bill would impose a fine of $1,000 or up to a year in jail for selling the potpourri-like substances in Nassau. The Suffolk legislature passed a similar measure on March 12.