Weighing in for the first time on Nassau's takeover by a state board, Long Island's most powerful state lawmaker urged collaboration among the players on Friday to resolve the county's fiscal problems.
Pressed for comment after an appearance in Manhattan, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said that if the Nassau Interim Finance Authority is right that the county budget plan is too risky, "it should be looked at as an opportunity" to work with county offices and labor unions toward a resolution.
At the same time, Skelos noted that fellow Nassau Republicans, County Executive Edward P. Mangano and Comptroller George Maragos, have emphasized that they proposed a budget that would prove balanced "with proper management." "I think they [NIFA] should give them an opportunity to operate that budget," he said.
But Skelos, walking a political tightrope, added he had "no idea" if Mangano's position was correct that the Nassau Interim Finance Authority acted outside the law.
The board on Wednesday voted for a takeover but did not assert a "hard control" over county finances that would have followed if they'd exercised another option - declaring a "fiscal emergency." Given that choice, Skelos suggested there is room for a resolution, though he issued one caveat: "No tax increases."
Still, aides to Mangano and Legis. Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), the presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, said they met with attorneys and GOP lawmakers to plan legal strategy. However, they declined to comment after the meeting and said the time frame for filing a lawsuit had not been determined.
Earlier in the day, Mangano had sketched out what might be his legal strategy at a business forum at Adelphi University, and in comments to Newsday after the event.
He indicated that NIFA had failed in its duties by not declaring a fiscal emergency, which could have led to a freeze on workers' pay. He said NIFA had failed to provide suggestions on the budget, and that the cost of NIFA oversight would be burdensome and costly.
"The biggest thing right now that has me concerned and leans me toward moving toward challenging their control period, is the fact that they have now brought to Nassau County more costs without enacting a power that could have reduced costs," Mangano said.
"That's very concerning to me," he said after the Adelphi event. "And they also went back on their word. They said there was a fiscal emergency, fiscal emergency and fiscal emergency. Yet in their action, their resolution, they said there's no fiscal emergency.I am suspect."
NIFA declined to comment.During the meeting, sponsored by Long Island Metro Business Action, Mangano told an audience of about two dozen that NIFA board members were business and finance professionals who should have offered solutions if they did not like his budget suggestions.
"They have hidden behind the statute and said they can only comment," Mangano said. "I believe that that is an incorrect interpretation of their statute. In fact, I believe that statute requires them to provide solutions, to proffer solutions."
A Mangano spokesman said later he was referring to a section of the law which reads: "the authority shall recommend to the county ... Such measures relating to ... Operation management efficiency and productivity as the authority deems appropriate to reduce costs and improve services so as to advance the purposes of this title."