Nassau and Suffolk counties have launched an 11th-hour campaign to obtain state permission to borrow money to cover lingering debts, possibly allowing Nassau to bypass a financial control board, lawmakers said Wednesday.
The counties have told state legislators assistance is needed to help cover expenses related to superstorm Sandy, though the proposal they’ve floated this week would allow them to issue bonds to cover any type of debt.
Importantly, the proposal would allow the counties to issue bonds through a state authority — thereby letting Nassau County avoid asking for approval from the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, officials said.
Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone, a Democrat, and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, have given state legislators a proposal that would allow them to borrow up to $500 million, according to a copy obtained by Newsday. The plan says that a “financially distressed municipality” would be able to use the state Dormitory Authority to “accomplish a refunding, repayment or restructuring of all or a portion of a county’s outstanding indebtedness.”
The state Legislature is slated to adjourn for the year on June 20.
Officials called the plan a bipartisan approach to forge “regional solutions.”
“It’s no secret Nassau and Suffolk counties have financially suffered in a number of ways in the aftermath of Sandy,” said Jon Schneider, spokesman for Bellone. “What we’re asking for is the ability to do some debt restructuring combined with some near-term relief so we can rebuild our county finances.”
Suffolk originated the proposal, officials from both counties said.
“Suffolkdeveloped this legislation. Nassau County joins with Suffolk in supporting this relief measure,” Brian Nevin, spokesman for Mangano, said in an email.
“Clearly, we’re stronger when we have a Democrat and a Republican coming together to speak about regional problems and regional solutions,” Schneider said.
But some state legislators blasted the notion of letting Nassau end run NIFA. Last year, they blocked a similar Mangano borrowing request.
“This is the same battle that was waged and lost by County Executive Mangano a year ago,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).
Asked if Sandy makes this request more palatable, Lavine said no.
“Sandy makes no difference whatsoever,” he said, adding that Mangano was trying to a “back door” approach to get around NIFA.
Nassau and Suffolk are eyeing other types of assistance from the Legislature. They want permission to allow off-track betting corporations on Long Island to offer video slots, as part of any deal to expand gambling in New York. Suffolk also wants to execute a “sale-lease back” agreement for county buildings that would give the county a cash infusion.