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Levy's veto on nursing home funding sets up showdown

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy Monday vetoed the Legislature's effort to fund the county's nursing home in 2011, setting up a showdown Tuesday as lawmakers vote on whether to override that and about two dozen other vetoes.

Levy's other vetoes include his rejection of an increase in county parks fees and the Legislature's scheduling of a new police class to start in September - Levy would prefer March.

The bulk of Levy's criticism during a Hauppauge news conference centered on legislators' use of speculative revenue from a sale of the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility while also funding the nursing home's operations.

"I'll use my red pen to maintain my tax freeze," Levy said. "The Legislature's budget was illegal and unbalanced."

But Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said it was Levy that included the nursing home sale revenue before lawmakers vote to sell the county-owned Yaphank facility.

"I promised the executive that we will vote up-or-down on the nursing home by the end of the year," said Lindsay, who has long opposed a sale. "If it passes, he has his revenue. If it doesn't pass, we have a problem, but it's a problem that he initiated."

Lindsay said he expects to have the 12 votes necessary to override Levy's vetoes on all budget items except funding for the nursing home, which Levy has long sought to sell. The override task is complicated by the fact that Suffolk Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) remains hospitalized after suffering a burst appendix Nov. 5.

The nursing home funding passed, but with 11 votes on Nov. 3.

Levy also said legislators should set the new class of 60 police officers to begin in March, not September. Lindsay said the later date would save the county $1 million it could use on police equipment and allow the 20 police academy officers to patrol streets during the summer months when there is more crime.

"We moved it to the fall because it moves more bodies to the streets when we need it most," Lindsay said.

Levy said Lindsay, who for much of the year has been calling for the county executive to begin police classes lawmakers funded in the 2010 budget, is being hypocritical by delaying the class. "These are the same guys who have been screaming bloody murder, having rallies outside my office that we're not hiring cops fast enough," he said. "Now that we've done so they decide to delay it for five months."

Levy also rejected the Legislature's attempt to set park fees at 2009 levels. Most fees were decreased for 2010 due to the recession, but the lower prices are set to expire this year.

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