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Editorial: State Senate let Long Beach down

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos at the State

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos at the State Capitol in Albany. Credit: Steve Jacobs, 2010

Only in the mysterious corridors of Albany could a routine, pro forma bill sponsored by the Senate majority leader fail to pass in his own house. That failure could be very costly for taxpayers in the City of Long Beach.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has yet to explain to his constituents why he let them down. Long Beach wanted the ability to float bonds to retire the $10 million deficit the new Democratic city council majority and manager inherited.

This kind of legislation is common, and Long Beach already has done a lot to clean up its mess. With Albany's approval, the cost of the bonding can be spread over 10 years, at $1.5 million a year, which would mean an extra 5.3 percent tax increase. And the state comptroller will be scrutinizing the city more closely. Without it, the city would eliminate the deficit in three years, at $3.33 million a year -- with an 11.9 percent tax increase.

In the Assembly, the Long Beach bill, sponsored by Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) won bipartisan passage, 134-6.

But in the Senate, it got nowhere. Walking away from his own bill for his own district, Skelos said GOP members are opposed to tax increases and borrowing. But he had already said a bill allowing Nassau County to borrow money "would help the county move forward." Why the change of heart?

County Executive Edward Mangano had asked Skelos for help after he couldn't win approval from the county legislature -- where Democrats refused to go along with borrowing until Republicans compromised on redistricting -- or from the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority, which said the county hadn't cut enough spending. The Nassau bill was extraordinary because it would have eviscerated the power of state control boards, such as NIFA.

In the minds of Mangano's supporters, binding the Nassau bill to the Long Beach bill was a way for the GOP to thwart the resistance.

But when the Assembly refused to help the county, the Senate lost interest in helping Long Beach.

Skelos argues that he was consistent on borrowing since he didn't do the Nassau County bill either. Unless he changes his mind, however, the city will be sending out much heftier property tax bills.