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Suffolk Republicans, Steve Bellone trade barbs over arts funding

GOP lawmakers attacked the county executive and the Democratic majority for cutting what is normally bipartisan funding by targeting 30 arts programs.

Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi, center, the GOP

Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi, center, the GOP caucus leader, is flanked by fellow lawmakers Rudy A. Sunderman, left, and Steven Flotteron during a news conference at the Suffolk County Legislature building in Hauppauge on Monday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Suffolk traded political shots at each other Monday over cuts in funding from the hotel/motel room tax.

GOP lawmakers attacked County Executive Steve Bellone and the Democratic majority for cutting what is normally bipartisan funding by targeting 30 arts programs, with cuts of 15 to 36 percent in districts represented by GOP lawmakers.

"The county executive is punishing nonprofit agencies . . .  to exact some sort of partisan revenge on Republicans,” said minority leader Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore).

Democrats countered that majority lawmakers in a budget working group took input from GOP lawmakers on funding allocations for their districts, and restored $700,000 that Bellone had cut in hotel/motel tax revenues.

Democrats said the seven GOP-member bloc created their own problem by voting against an amendment to Bellone's $2.3 billion budget that included hotel-motel tax funding for their cultural groups.

“This is totally political on your . . . side,” said Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills).

Republicans on Monday lost a bid to table Bellone’s resolution allocating arts funding. The GOP bloc said it would be “much more equitable” to cut funding in all legislators' districts by three or four percent, which they said would have had little effect on arts groups.

 “Only Suffolk's Republican legislators would cry about not spending more of taxpayers' hard-earned money,” said Jason Elan, Bellone’s spokesman.

“Tom Cilmi and his caucus should instead explain to their constituents why they voted against these measures in the first place,” Elan said.

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