Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and legislative Democrats traded blame Wednesday for an impasse that is holding up $156.9 million in borrowing for capital projects such as road upgrades and new police vehicles.
The dispute surfaced at a legislative meeting late Monday when six Democrats abstained from a vote on the borrowing.
In doing so, Democrats denied Republicans, who have a 12-vote majority on the 19-member Nassau County Legislature, the 13-vote supermajority they need to approve county borrowing. The vote on the bonding was 11-0.
The $159.6 million capital plan itself, which is divided relatively evenly between county road projects and police equipment such as new vehicles, had passed unanimously earlier Monday.
Democrats said they had to vote for that plan as a ministerial act to approve the police-related items.
Democrats then moved on Monday to add a series of road projects in some of their individual districts to the borrowing measure. The projects included improvements to Babylon Turnpike and Nassau Road in Roosevelt, and Franklin Avenue in Hempstead.
Democrats offered Monday to vote for borrowing for the police-related items in Blakeman's capital plan, including new bulletproof vests and new ambulances and vehicles for sheriff's officers.
Democrats then said they would negotiate with Republicans to hammer out a deal for the road safety upgrades the Democrats wanted in time for the legislature's next meeting on Aug. 8.
But Nassau Chief Deputy County Executive Arthur Walsh, a Blakeman appointee, insisted on an up-or-down vote on the entire borrowing plan.
"You can't vote for half a thing," Walsh told Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) during debate on Monday.
On Wednesday, Blakeman and other Republicans held a news conference with union leaders to attack Democrats, saying they were holding up money for police equipment.
"I will not defund the police," Legis. John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) said. "You're going to hear that, over the next couple of months, leading right up to Election Day."
Blakeman told Newsday later: "We can't be held hostage on important public safety projects, and pick them, one is more important than the other. We put together a capital plan, one plan — not doing it a little bit here, a little bit there."
Abrahams stood by his move for negotiations over the road projects.
"We felt that we would work out this stuff now, we'll do this stuff now in order for us to go forward, and over the next three weeks, hopefully there will be a meeting of the minds, a compromise and we'll figure out the rest," Abrahams told Newsday.
Abrahams said he worked to impress on Republicans that Democrats would have voted Monday for borrowing for the police funding.
"I must have said that six times to the point where I might have offended the Republicans because they said, 'We get it.'"
Blakeman called it "illegal" for Democrats to have added their projects to his capital plan.
"They defunded the plan that they approved 10 minutes before, and then they held it hostage by saying 'Well, we'll fund it if you put in these nine projects in the bond ordinance,'" Blakeman said. "You can't do that until it's been vetted, until it's been studied, until it's been approved."
Tommy Shevlin, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, said county legislators who abstained from the bonding vote “have assured the PBA of their support for the public safety portion of this bill … We hope that both sides can reconcile their differences quickly in the interest of these vital public safety provisions."
Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, was absent from the legislative session Monday. Nassau Legis. Joshua Lafazan (D-Woodbury) missed the vote.