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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Nassau budget in serious trouble

Nassau County is in deep financial trouble. On Friday, the legislature should take a big step toward climbing out of that hole by rejecting an unrealistic 2011 budget submitted by County Executive Edward Mangano.

Mangano's first-ever budget is out of balance, by approximately $240 million, or nearly 10 percent. The takeover of the county by a state control board, which it can do with just a 1 percent discrepancy, seems inevitable.

Mangano is counting on revenues unlikely to materialize anytime soon, because approval from Albany to capture these revenues would be required. For example, which state legislator will be the first to vote to torpedo local school district finances by ending the county's guarantee of tax refunds? Other revenue streams, such as requiring nonprofits to pay for sewage and water usage, could be tied up in years of litigation.

The county executive's initial budget called for $60 million in concessions from public service unions. It was the right move, but he couldn't get the givebacks. Now the budget relies too heavily on one-shots such as the sale of county-owned land and borrowing more than $200 million to pay operating costs. That's just a tax increase deferred - with interest.

All the Republican-controlled legislature would accomplish by passing this flawed budget is guaranteeing that the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority takes charge. The turmoil and disruption would cause Nassau's bond ratings to fall, making interest on its debt shoot higher. All the progress that was made since the 2000 takeover by the state board will be lost.

Reject the budget and tell Mangano to try again. hN

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