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Steve Bellone proposes bond deal; Republicans declare victory

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a news conference in Amityville on July 5. Credit: Barry Sloan

It appears the battle over bundled bonds may be over.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone proposed Wednesday ending the month-long battle with Republicans, saying he would go back to letting lawmakers vote separately on each bond resolution, but will offer new legislation requiring that appropriations and bonding be included in the same measure.

Legislative Counsel George Nolan questioned the legality of such a move, however, because appropriations need 10 votes for passage while bond resolutions require 12.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said he intends to go forward with a simpler solution. From now on, he intends to put forward the 12 vote resolutions authorizing bonds for capital projects first, and vote on appropriations only if the bond resolution passes.

Either way, minority Republicans declared victory. They said Bellone’s proposal would give them the oversight they need to consider bonding for each capital project separately.

“I’m glad the county executive has folded,” said Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “It’s a victory for the taxpayer.”

Bellone began to bundle bond resolutions for various capital projects last month, accusing Republicans of “playing cute for politics” by backing the appropriation resolutions while rejecting bonding to pay for some projects. Since January, Republicans had approved 35 of 42 capital projects, but after Bellone began bundling, the GOP blocked all 41 separate projects that came up for votes.

Bellone said he would seek an immediate revote Tuesday, at the next legislative meeting, on separate bond resolutions for high-priority projects including the Rails to Trails bike path from Port Jefferson Station to Shoreham, funding for a new Smith Point Bridge, and work on Commack and Crooked Hill Roads, all of which get significant state and federal funding. He also will put forward bond resolutions for work on Canaan Lake in Patchogue and $2 million for an app to improve communication between police and school workers in the event of an active shooter incident.

Bellone said a he is hopeful his proposed legislation to merge appropriations and bonding into one measure could be approved by the September meeting. Under his proposal, said Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman, the combined measure would require 12 votes.

“This proposal eliminates the incentive anyone has to play politics with any bond,” Bellone said at a news conference Wednesday.

Gregory said his approach will end the dispute without creating a legal muddle but he is glad a settlement is at hand.

“It was getting a little ridiculous,” he said. “You can’t blame it all on the Republicans. They have the right to object to things to make sure money is being spent wisely. Sometimes they can’t get votes from our side.”

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), the GOP caucus leader, hopes the proposal leads to “common ground,” adding the caucus “looks forward to working with the county executive as his proposal is properly vetted.”

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