Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is not a fan of County Executive Ed Mangano's early-retirement proposal. But please, don’t call him a critic of it.
"I don't think it's a good policy, I think it's something of last resort," he said in Owego, Sunday while waiting to talk with upstate Republicans about challenging Sen. Charles Schumer. As for Mangano’s plan to borrow the money needed, Maragos said, “We’ve been doing that too often in the past.”
The comptroller, however, was muted in his critique of his fellow Republican’s plan in Mineola Tuesday, calling it “just one option” to be reviewed as part of the overall budget plan.
“I’m not a critic of it -- I’m saying we should consider all other options,” Maragos said Wednesday to clarify his remarks. Maragos said he hopes to find other savings so the county could buy out fewer than the 75 police, 150 Civil Service Employee Association members and 66 correction officers Mangano plans on.
Mangano calls the buyout a way to provide “jobs for a younger generation.” But Maragos said Sunday the $16 million in savings does little to cut a $250 million deficit and could drive a "brain drain," noting he could lose two “critical” senior staff members.
"We still have a lot of temporary employees -- rather than pay people to retire, why don't we reassign people and cut down further on the temporary employees?" Maragos said then. Bonding the cost, as Mangano plans, is just playing kick-the-can, he said.
"Everything we do is to defer current expenses down the road and get rid of them by bonding them," he said. “It’s no way to run a county.”
Disagreeing with officeholders of their own party is pretty standard for comptrollers, whose main claim on the job is honest bookkeeping untainted by partisanship.
But this former financial industry executive, eyeing the U.S. Senate after holding his first office just a few months, apparently wants to leave no daylight between himself and Mangano.
“I don’t think it’s a good policy to be taken out of context or in isolation and should be in the context of the overall multi-year plan,” he insisted Wednesday. “Am I mincing words? But words are important.”
Maragos was favorably received Sunday, but remains cautious about opposing Schumer. "If I decide to do it it is going to be because I think I can win - similar to the last race I ran," he said. That, of course, was his upset of incumbent Democrat Howard Weitzman, a victory that added to Maragos’s allure in Owego.
"I had a plan and I was a determined to win, and I worked hard for it and that's exactly what I'm going to do here," Maragos said.