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Skelos' new push for Nassau borrowing plan

“We have a very wise state Court of

“We have a very wise state Court of Appeals and I’m very confident they will affirm we did the right thing by the constitution,” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelossaid, regarding his plan to redraw the state Senate map to add a new, 63rd district. (Jan. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY - Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos tried Tuesday to revive an effort to allow Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to bypass a financial control board to borrow millions of dollars to pay overdue tax refunds.

But the appeal -- coming with less than three days to go in the legislative session -- immediately hit a roadblock in the Democrat-led Assembly, where officials indicated they wouldn't act before adjourning for the summer.

In a related issue, a refinancing deal to help debt-ridden Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow began to wither, according to supporters.

Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) introduced a bill before midnight Monday that would permit Nassau to borrow up to $120 million without approval from the county legislature or the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. In doing so, Republicans just beat the deadline for introducing a bill and getting the legislature to vote on it before lawmakers are scheduled to leave the State Capitol on Thursday.

Skelos said Senate Republicans felt it was "time to step in" because Democrats in the county legislature have blocked Mangano from borrowing any money until he agrees to redo a redistricting plan.

"Democratic officials have absolutely said they are holding it up because of redistricting. To me, that's a crime," Skelos said, calling it an illegal "quid pro quo."

Because the county legislature refused to give Mangano the two-thirds majority needed for borrowing, he has been lobbying for state help in paying $41 million in property-tax refunds due at the end of the month.

Skelos said Mangano has been following a NIFA-approved plan for county finances, cutting millions of dollars in spending and that he wants "some way . . . to help the county move forward."

Mangano huddled with Skelos early Tuesday and then twice with Nassau's Assembly delegation. "We are trying to bring some reasonable minds to the table," Mangano said, saying failure would result in "painful, painful cuts."

But the Assembly threw cold water on the proposal.

"It does not have support in the Assembly," said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) later added that he'd consider the proposal only if the county legislature made a special request known as a "home-rule message."

Lavine also said the odds now appeared to be against a bill he's pushing to allow Nassau University Medical Center to refinance about $300 million in debt. Taking advantage of current low-interest rates could save the hospital $15 million or more, he said. But he noted the medical center made the request in June, with just a few weeks to go in the legislative session.

"It did come here late," Lavine said, "and the clock is running out rapidly."

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