The Suffolk Legislature got bogged down in heated political bickering Tuesday night, when the Republican minority blocked $32.7 million in capital projects after Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone bundled bond resolutions to pay for the public safety and public works projects.
The seven-member GOP caucus, which had enough votes to keep Bellone from getting a needed two-thirds majority for bonding, accused Bellone of trying to pressure them to vote for all 29 projects in two resolutions rather than deal with them individually, as has been done for the past 40 years.
“This is the one place Republicans have any political power,” Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “This is the most disingenuous political thing I’ve seen. They are looking to take back the one bit of political checks and balances.”
Democrats returned fire, saying the bulk of GOP lawmakers voted for an appropriating resolution for all the projects that said they were to be financed with bonds, but then refused en masse to authorize bonds to pay for the projects.
“Voting for the resolution, but not the bond, is the height of hypocrisy,” Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said.
Amy Keys, Bellone’s top legislative aide, denied any political motives, saying the change is part of Bellone’s drive to streamline county operations. She said most municipalities in the state do bond resolutions for multiple projects at once.
However, Republicans complained that Bellone’s effort only became known late Monday when his aides delivered the two bundled bond resolutions to the legislative clerk.
One resolution would have authorized the financing of $4.68 million for a dozen public safety projects, including replacing a police patrol boat and mobile data terminals in police cars and fixing bathrooms at the Yaphank police headquarters. A second bond measure would have funded 17 projects including road improvements in Islip, Shelter Island and Huntington, a new fiscal computer system, and weather and energy conservation projects.
Lawmakers did approve one bond measure to settle a $1.8 million liability lawsuit.
Legis. Tom Cilmi, the GOP caucus leader, said the caucus acted in protest because of Bellone’s heavy-handed tactics. He said Republicans had only blocked three or four capital bond measures since January while approving 90 percent when the measures were voted on one by one.
“That was not enough for the county executive, he wanted everything,” Cilmi said.
Some lawmakers without success tried at the last minute to table both resolutions so they could be unbundled as in the past.
“There are a lot of political games on both sides,” Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said.
In other action, the legislature also repealed a 2003 law, sponsored by former Legis. David Bishop, that allowed mixed-use residential and commercial developments to get a 50 percent discount on sewer connection fees.
Heartland developer Jerry Wolkoff is the only builder to ever applied for the break. Legislative Counsel George Nolan said the repeal will not impact him because his project is already in the pipeline.