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Sen. Hannon: Bill to boost NIFA borrowing authority is dead

Sen. Kemp Hannon at the state Capitol in

Sen. Kemp Hannon at the state Capitol in Albany in March. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — A bill to raise Nassau County’s debt limit is dead for the year, a key lawmaker said Tuesday, citing a lack of local support.

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said the State Senate won’t take up the proposal, which would have doubled the Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s borrowing limit from $400 million to $800 million, after the Nassau County Legislature refused to stand behind the idea.

County lawmakers on Monday voted down a “home rule” message, backed by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, that would have asked state lawmakers to permit the borrowing in order to pay commercial property assessment refunds. Though some state legislators said it wasn’t clear if such an official request was required legally, the fact that it was defeated kills its chances for now.

“Whether or not a home-rule message was technically necessary, the vote of the county legislature has been dispositive for this session,” said Hannon, the senior member of the Nassau delegation. The Senate is led by Republicans who control which bills are voted on.

A Democrat expressed disappointment.

“The NIFA bill would have given Nassau access to credit markets that it badly needs, and I appreciate the county executive’s push to confront this issue head-on,” said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “We were ready in Albany to do our part, but we never got the chance.”

Meanwhile, a related proposal backed by Curran still has a chance.

That measure would allow the county to charge commercial property owners an annual fee to pay future commercial property assessment refunds. It also would provide the county flexibility to access the more than $150 million in its “Disputed Assessment Fund” to distribute the refunds. Curran aides said this would help the county address a long-running refund backlog that has hampered Nassau’s financial outlook.

County legislators approved a “home rule” request for this proposal.

Hannon and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) have voiced support for the bill. Hannon said it would address a “number of defects” in the refund program that have “tended to freeze up” payments.

But it’s not clear if the State Legislature will act before it is set to adjourn for the year Wednesday. It is rushing to approve hundreds of bills before then, with lawmakers vying with one another to get their “local bills” to the Senate and Assembly floors for a vote.

“It’s a question of the volume of bills we have to do,” Hannon said.

Aides to Curran didn’t immediately comment.

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