Ronald Stack, center, along with the rest of the NIFA...

Ronald Stack, center, along with the rest of the NIFA board. (Dec. 30, 2010) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Words from County Executive Edward Mangano's current allies offer a hint of how the county's fiscal drama could play out.

Consider last week's statement from the Conservative Society for Action - a coalition of five Long Island tea party organizations that praises steps Mangano has taken to cut spending, and his repeal last year of the unpopular energy tax.

The society blasts the Nassau Interim Finance Authority as "unelected, hand-picked czars" who used "the letter of the law to seize power." But the group goes on to urge NIFA - dares them, really - to go further and legally proclaim a "fiscal emergency" and thus put labor deals and other bloated expenses "on the table." NIFA shouldn't add debt, the society warns.

For the short term, Mangano will keep challenging NIFA in court. If after a time he loses there, he and presiding officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) could keep castigating the board as the enemy - perhaps while that foe raises taxes, or forces tough labor concessions, or takes other hard steps to close the declared operating deficit.

This is just one scenario. Elected officials often find unelected foils useful. The risk is that voters come to see this, perhaps with prodding from rival Democrats, as a passive-aggressive end game - or just dithering.

The county has until Feb. 22 to submit a revised budget plan to NIFA. A seasoned GOP activist declined to make predictions - but said: "Everything between now and Feb. 22 is rhetoric. The wrestlers are circling each other. At some point they'll charge. You really don't know if it's the one in 1,000 wrestling matches that's not fixed."

DAYS OF RAGE: For Nassau and Suffolk residents who work or worked as New York City police and correction officers and firefighters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be a bigger target of anger than any hometown pol. He looks to end variable supplement benefits - $12,000 annual bonus payments to retirees that stem from a deal involving pension-fund profits. Union leaders suggest this is not negotiable.

RUDY IN THE RED: While he says he'll consider another presidential bid, ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani's 2008 campaign committee reported itself $2.7 million in debt just a few weeks ago. He's said a Sarah Palin candidacy might make him more likely to jump in, but some who have known him for a long time believe Giuliani could be her running mate for vice president, for a "balanced" ticket.

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