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State leaves Nassau, Suffolk sales taxes in limbo

New York State senators work at the state

New York State senators work at the state Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, during the last scheduled day of the 2017 legislative session for their chamber and the Assembly. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — In the rush to approve hundreds of bills on the last day of the state legislative session, lawmakers passed several key pieces of legislation affecting Nassau and Suffolk counties — but left them in limbo over millions of dollars in local sales taxes.

The State Legislature adjourned without renewing sales tax authorizations for Nassau, Suffolk and 51 other counties because the issue became entangled in negotiations about a law to renew mayoral control of New York City schools.

The sales tax authorizations don’t expire until the end of November, although lawmakers will have to reconvene in Albany to preserve a major revenue source for the counties.

Renewal of the tax is worth roughly $300 million each to Nassau and Suffolk, out of a total annual sales tax revenue of more than $1 billion. That’s because only a portion of the sales tax has to be reauthorized. Still, it’s crucial money for the localities.

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), the presiding officer, said the county already faced a budget shortfall and the loss of sales tax could mean, “draconian cuts to services and massive layoffs.”

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano expressed confidence state lawmakers won’t let the tax expire: “The sales tax extender impacts the county, as well as every town and city in Nassau, and we expect the state to act in the near future to protect important services and programs.”

The sales tax wasn’t the only Long Island measure to fail, or win approval, during the dash to the finish line. Lawmakers also:

  • Voted to allow unlimited line-of-duty sick-leave benefits for former New York City Police officers who worked on the rescue, recovery and cleanup of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and now work in Long Island police departments. The state would pay the cost of additional sick days without charging Nassau and Suffolk counties, or other police agencies where the former NYPD officers work. A few hundred officers who haven’t retired or taken disability leave are believed to be affected.
  • Approved a bill to grant state recognition to the Montaukett Indian Nation. Four years ago, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed a similar bill because it required the state to establish a recognition process and he said that was too expensive.
  • Failed to approve a bill that sought to boost NICE bus service by adding a 50-cent fee to any ride-hailing ride (Lyft, Uber, etc.) originating in Nassau County. The county is weighing whether to authorize ride-hailing.
  • Failed to enact a moratorium on Queens County’s ability to withdraw water from the Lloyd Sands aquifer. New York City is studying whether to open dozens of groundwater wells in southeast Queens that tap into the Lloyd, and that haven’t been used in a decade.
  • Failed to approve a bill sponsored by Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) that would have mandated the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spend nearly $2 billion to accelerate repair, and improve signaling and communications on the Long Island Rail Road.
  • Opponents said the mandate effectively would have redirected funds for building an LIRR “third track,” derailing the project. Hannon denied the assertion, saying spending on the third rail is years away.
  • Failed to approve a bill sponsored by Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), the deputy assembly speaker, that would have transferred the Freeport Armory to a church-affiliated non-profit — a bill Cuomo has vetoed twice.

The approved bills head to Cuomo for signature or veto by the end of the year.

With Rick Brand,, Robert Brodsky, and Michael Gormley

State & Region