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Suffolk Republicans call for project-spending cut; Democrats slam proposal

Suffolk Republicans proposed a 10 percent cut to planned county infrastructure project expenses and want to eliminate two proposals by County Executive Steve Bellone to save $18.5 million.

Democrats derided the GOP proposal as a poorly thought-out political stunt.

Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) noted the county faces a $176 million projected deficit for 2016. Lawmakers added $10 million in additional capital projects on Tuesday.

"I don't see any way we can afford this," McCaffrey said. "it's time to make difficult decisions."

Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) called it a "ploy" and termed the 10 percent cut figure arbitrary.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said "I don't know which engineers they talked to who said they could do 40-plus projects at 90 percent of the costs," he said.

The Republican bill would impose 10 percent cuts on 47 projects and completely eliminate a $4 million "Connect Long Island" bus project pushed by Bellone and $5 million for Start-Up New York, to bring businesses downtown.

Some of the proposed projects that Republicans want to trim have to do with public safety, like a $5 million runway repaving at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, home to the Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing.

"Where it goes from ridiculous to insane is that this is a project that is 95 percent federally funded," Schneider said. "Maybe in next year's budget we can buy them a calculator."

But Republicans noted that Bellone has ordered departments each year to withhold 10 percent of operating expenses. "We've asked our employees to do more with less for years," Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said. "I don't think there's any reason we shouldn't ask the same of our Department of Public Works and the contractors we use."

Presiding Officer Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the Republican proposal is unlikely to go anywhere. Democrats and minor party allies hold a 12 to 6 advantage over Republicans in the Suffolk Legislature.

Bellone had proposed a $119 million spending proposal for capital programs, virtually flat from the year before. Lawmakers will make amendments to the county executive's budget plans.

On Tuesday, lawmakers added $4 million for a traffic circle in Riverside and more than $1 million for a new building for the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

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