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Laura Curran veto upheld by Nassau County lawmakers

Nassau legislators on Wednesday upheld County Executive Laura Curran’s vetoes of Republican amendments to her $3.11 billion budget that would have funneled $650,000 more to the county public works department and cut funding for social services and the county attorney's office  

Majority Republicans failed to get the supermajority of 13 votes necessary for a veto override that would have restored their changes to Curran's 2020 budget. The eight members of the Democratic caucus voted against the override, while the 11 members of the Republican caucus voted for it.

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said he was "disappointed" minority caucus members had sided with Curran, a Democrat. 

"These amendments would have given our police officers training and resources to deal with active shooters, provided real enforcement of underage vaping and smoking laws, improved county roads and parks, reduced delays on opening new small businesses and provided critical funding for veterans services," Nicolello said.

Republicans introduced the amendments in October, proposing $5.8 million in spending increases offset by $5.8 million in cost reductions.

The amendments funded additional positions in county departments including public works, consumer affairs and health.

The GOP measures also included money to hire five new police medics and train patrol officers to use SWAT rifles for active shooter situations.

In her veto, Curran kept some Republican changes. They included $2.795 million to add 20 positions to the county district attorney's office and 30 new jobs for the probation department. Curran also let stand a proposal to create an Office of Crime Victims Advocate, with an $890,000 budget.

She also did not veto a $4 million cut in funding for the county information technology department.

“As County Executive, I have pushed for government to do more with less,” Curran said in a statement after the vote. “Given that Nassau County continues to operate under a control period, my Administration is committed to exercising spending discipline while ensuring residents continue to receive the efficient and high-quality services they deserve.”

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state board, controls county finances. 

Legislators debated the veto override for more than two hours, focusing primarily on $150,000 Republicans wanted to add to the police department budget for rifle training for patrol officers for active shooter incidents. 

County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder testified the department did not need the money at present.

"We are expanding our training and we will do it within our budget," Ryder said. 

In their pitch to Democrats to override Curran's veto, Republicans said their budget changes were designed to add union employees for essential work in departments that are understaffed. 

Republicans criticized Curran for opening up positions for political appointees.

"Talk about big government — what are we doing here? I urge our members and everyone on the minority caucus to override this veto," said Legis. John Ferretti (R-Levittown). 

"Instead of putting our tax dollars back into our community, the Minority Caucus and County Executive chose to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the hands of their patronage hires [in] the County Attorney’s office and in positions like 'Liaison to the Receiver of Taxes,'" Nicolello said in a statement. 

Democrats said their decision to uphold Curran's vetoes came after they had scrutinized the GOP amendments and consulted with experts and department commissioners. 

“We have determined that the County Executive’s approach represents the best approach to enhancing essential County services — especially in the realms of public safety, health, and social services — in an efficient, fiscally responsible manner that truly serves and protects Nassau County residents and empowers law enforcement experts to set sound public policy," Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said after the vote.

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