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Levy chides 'dillydallying' by Suffolk lawmakers

Warning that county finances are deteriorating, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy assailed county lawmakers for "dillydallying" over his fiscal plan to avoid massive layoffs or tax hikes.

Underscoring Levy's claims, budget officials added that the county's latest sales-tax check, from small businesses that file quarterly, was $38.8 million, down $1.5 million or 3.74 percent from last year.

"I remain stunned," said Deputy County Executive Connie Corso of the sales tax figures. That drop comes only weeks after the state disclosed it had incorrectly credited Suffolk with $5 million in sales tax, based on a single wrong tax return.

In a news conference, Levy cautioned the proposed 2011 budget could be "horrendous," and said "the legislature is simply not engaged with the magnitude of the situation."

He said he will "drive the train" if lawmakers have no cost-cutting ideas, adding: "They have to hop on board or get out of the way, and stop throwing lumber on the track."

For the second time in a week, Levy jawboned legislators to accept his early retirement incentive plan - rejected last week because it did not include workers at the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, which Levy wants to sell for $36 million. Lawmakers will consider their own expanded version July 7. But a Levy spokesman said the county executive will "probably veto" it because the nursing home jobs would have to be refilled and save little money. Levy said he would back the incentive for nursing home workers only if a sale goes through.

But Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said that Levy "has no one to blame but himself" for the failure of the early retirement bill because he was unwilling to compromise.

Lindsay called the early retirement plan "nothing more than a Levy one-shot revenue scheme that will end up costing taxpayers more in the end." He also dismissed pressure to sell the nursing home quickly.

"The legislature will not move forward until we do our due diligence in examining the real fiscal impact of the sale," Lindsay said.

The county executive also disclosed other fiscal woes, including the loss of $23 million in extended Medicaid aid and a $15-million increase in employee health benefits - double projections - including $5.5 million due to a mandate in the new federal health care law to cover children of county workers up to age 26 starting Jan. 1.

Levy also said the county will not receive $7.5 million in expected savings from remaking county health centers into community-based federally qualified health centers because the application process is taking longer than expected.

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