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Insider budget battle brewing in Nassau

There is a beaut of a battle shaping up over the Nassau County budget.


It pits the Republicans who now run the county against the Democrats who once did.


On one side is Republican CE Edward Mangano and the Republican presiding officer of the county legislature, Peter Schmitt of Massapequa, who say they inherited a budget mess from Democrats.


On the other is former Democratic CE Thomas Suozzi and his former budget director, Thomas Stokes, just named the board of the watchdog Nassau County Interim Finance Authority.


They say they left the Republicans a balanced budget, and say that was implicitly confirmed in November when bond-rating agencies affirmed the county’s rating.


The battleground will be NIFA, and the chairman of the agency, Ronald Stack.


Here is Schmitt at Monday’s meeting of the legislature when a public speaker, financial consultant Michael Mulhall of Rockville Centre, suggested the county might have to raise property taxes.


Schmitt: “I am deeply concerned at what I see is the rather bare naked political attempt to stack the Nassau Interim Finance Authority — and I use the word ‘stack’ with no pun intended.
But the appointments that have been announced, that are being considered, include the former budget director for the former county executive who built the Ponzi scheme we're all dealing with right now. Put that guy on, who doesn't even live in this county and doesn't pay taxes n this county and to put him on the NIFA board to sit and pontificate over the steps that the current county executive is considering or taking to cure these ills gives NIFA absolutely zero credibility in my judgment. None.
And NIFA started in the glory days of Frank Zarb, NIFA was an honest broker and all the players were at the table ... They were an honest broker and they kept everyone at the table and when they issued an opinion on a course of action it was respected by all sides. Not any more NIFA is a joke. It has become a caricature of itself.
Tom Stokes is the guy who put $90 million of county money into Wells Fargo Bank. Ron Stack, the chairman of NIFA, was in Lehman Brothers and it was falling down around his ears. They put $90 million of county money in Wells Fargo's bank — couple of weeks later, lo and behold Stack shows up at Wells Fargo's bank. And from that day until Tom Suozzi left office, every speculative thing he wants to do, was risky, but OK. And now they're going to add to that mix. And I'm going to say this over and over and over again as we go through this year with whatever role NIFA attempts to exercise on how we deal with this budget because we're not raising taxes. I know the bandits down at Goldman Sachs and the rest of these bankers and beancounters would like nothing better than to see commitments to raise taxes. They're not going to get it. We're not raising taxes. Period.”


Here’s the reaction Tuesday from Suozzi and Stokes, via their spokesman, Bruce Nyman, former communications director under Suozzi:

"I assume these ravings are the start of a Republican campaign to 'discredit' NIFA. Peter will be the 'hit-man.' He knows that the administration will continue to phony-up the County's fiscal numbers and give us a grossly unbalanced budget for next year. NIFA will blast their budget so ... politically, the Republicans need to 'delegitimize' NIFA. I can only think that Rush Limbaugh is advising them."

Stack was traveling Tuesday morning and could not be reached for comment, his office said.
 

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