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Laura Curran to veto Republican budget amendments

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she would

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she would veto Republican amendments to her 2021 budget proposal. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Wednesday that she will veto Republican amendments to her 2021 budget, and said she has enough votes on the county legislature to sustain the veto.

Curran said she would reject all Republican changes to her executive budget that "irresponsibly inflated revenue projections" and would result in future service cuts. The GOP-controlled legislature is expected to vote Thursday on Curran's budget proposal.

"How much money coming in serves as the foundation for our entire budget," said Curran, a Democrat. "It's an irresponsible attempt to play politics with funding that first responders and front-line employees rely on to get Nassau County — to get our residents through this pandemic."

Republicans have an 11-8 majority on the county legislature, and would need two members of the Democratic caucus to support them in a supermajority to override Curran's veto. Curran said she had commitments from Democratic lawmakers that they would provide the votes.

Republicans, in their amendments to Curran's budget, oppose her plan to push off payment of $75 million in county debt until 2021, saying better-than-expected sales tax projections should enable the county to pay the money this year.

Republicans said the county ultimately would save $95 million in debt service by paying off the $75 million in 2020.

Legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said while the Curran budget had projected a 20% drop in sales tax revenue in 2021, the situation has improved to the point where sales tax receipts are expected to decline by only 12% next year.

"The county executive's kick-the-can-down-the-road approach is a terrible policy for Nassau residents," Nicolello said after Curran's announcement that she would veto the GOP amendments.

Curran administration officials said changing revenue projections — such as estimating higher sales tax revenue — violates the county charter.

Republicans deny their projections are illegal. They say the projections result of data from municipalities across the region in collaboration with financial consultant Martin Cantor, a certified public accountant and director of Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, based in Melville.

At issue is whether the county needs to borrow more money through its state-appointed financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

Last month, Curran released a $3.3 billion budget proposal for 2021 that would cut tens of millions of dollars in spending in an effort to close budget holes caused by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her spending plan relies heavily on a proposal to refinance $394 million in debt issued by the county and NIFA.

Sales taxes account for about 40% of the county's overall revenue. Suffolk, which has also seen a drop in sales tax revenue due to the pandemic, is projecting a 7.2% drop in sales tax receipts in 2021.

Republican amendments, filed last Thursday, called for restoration of $4.2 million in NICE bus contract funding to increase hours of operation on all routes; restoring $445,000 to the district attorney's office to purchase new information technology; increasing funding to a countywide rodent extermination program by $450,000; and creation of a special fund that would use 2021 sales tax revenue in excess of the adopted budget to pay property tax refunds.

Curran's budget calls for the hiring of five police medics to the ambulance unit, preserves a police academy class of 200 new recruits; and commits to NICE bus restoration funding if federal aid does not arrive next year.

Minority Leader Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said majority Republicans were, "trying to sabotage the budget" with their amendments.

"If they haven't noticed we are facing a global pandemic and now is the time we come together to forge an agreement to ensure we are moving Nassau County forward," Abrahams said.

Abrahams confirmed all eight Democrats were allied with Curran and prepared to vote down the Republicans' amended budget Thursday.

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