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Nassau Republicans move to cut $105 traffic ticket fee

Valley Stream resident Malik Amid expresses displeasure with

Valley Stream resident Malik Amid expresses displeasure with the Nassau legislature before they approved a $2.9 billion budget Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. A proposed traffic and parking ticket fee was not included in the fiscal plan. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Nassau County Legislature’s Republican majority plans to cut a proposed $105 traffic ticket surcharge by nearly half and eliminate it entirely for parking violations — a move that could appease motorists but also add risk to the 2017 budget.

GOP lawmakers this week filed amendments to address the fee controversy, two weeks after approving the $2.9 billion budget with a temporary $77 million hole due to shortfalls in revenue from the “public safety” and other proposed fees.

County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, had proposed the $105 “public safety fee” on all traffic and parking tickets as a way to pay for the hiring of 150 police officers and 81 police civilian employees.

The GOP amendments, which likely will be considered at Monday’s legislative meeting, would reduce the $105 fee to $55 for traffic violations, including those from red-light cameras.

Cutting the public safety fee will reduce its projected revenue by some $38 million — from $66 million to about $28 million, lawmakers say.

To plug that budget hole, Republicans are banking on new revenues from a “partial amnesty” for businesses that haven’t complied with a county law requiring them to pay large penalties for not providing timely information about their income and expenses.

Implementation of the law, however, has been delayed by a court challenge. That has raised the possibility that some businesses will decline the amnesty offer, in hopes that the law will be overturned.

Adam Barsky, chairman of Nassau’s financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said he viewed “the assumption of revenue from the proposed amnesty as risky and highly speculative due to the lack of legal certainty.”

NIFA has the authority to approve or reject the county’s annual budgets.

Under the GOP amendments, parking violations won’t be subject to the public safety fee. Some residents had complained that a $105 fee on such tickets would have pushed the total cost, in some cases, to more than $200.

The GOP majority also has decided to back new and increased business fees that Mangano estimates will raise about $11 million.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said reducing the public safety fee “is the right thing to do for Nassau County residents.” Gonsalves criticized minority Democrats for opposing the fee but not proposing amendments to make up the revenue.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said the public safety fee, even at $55, is an “unfair, poorly conceived, Republican-manufactured motorist tax, and at any cost it’s bad for Nassau taxpayers.”

Businesses that would be impacted by the partial amnesty owe Nassau about $105 million. GOP legislators hope their plan to allow payment of only 75 percent of outstanding fines to net at least $38 million, enough to plug the budget hole left by reduction of the public safety fee.

But the 2013 “income/expense” law is under court challenge. The case is expected to be heard by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court next year.

The Mangano administration declined to comment on the Republican budget amendments, saying officials were reviewing them.

NASSAU PUBLIC SAFETY FEE

Republican county legislators have proposed:

  • Cutting a planned $105 surcharge on traffic tickets to $55
  • Eliminating the planned $105 surcharge on parking ticketsTo make up for the estimated $38 million revenue loss, GOP lawmakers have proposed:
  • A “partial amnesty” program for businesses that haven’t complied with a county law requiring timely reporting of their income and expenses.

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