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Opinion

Letter of the law

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Daily Point

NIFA writes to Nassau

Tensions between Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority have ratcheted up with an exchange of letters about budgets that use two very different definitions of the word “deficit.”

The state oversight board wants to see a detailed plan for how the county would impose $100 million a year in spending cuts for 2018 and beyond to deal with huge, recurring annual deficits. The county first responded that its budget is doing just fine, and in fact running surpluses, so there’s no need to come up with such a plan, and it can’t be done in the 45 days NIFA demands in the letter.

But speaking to The Point Friday, Mangano took a slightly different tone: “There is no fiscal emergency,” Mangano said, pointing to a $200 million fund balance and recently improved credit ratings. “We are always looking for ways to cut and save, but the budgeting process is burdensome, and we don’t even have the numbers from the first six months of this year yet to know what we’re working with. We’ll do what NIFA asked, but we can’t do it in that time frame.”

On Tuesday, NIFA wrote to Eric Naughton, the deputy county executive for finance, to say that department directors need to come up with plans to cut spending by 7 percent. NIFA said that’s because each year of the county’s 2018-21 plan includes $80 million a year in deficits if things go well and $170 million a year if risky revenue doesn’t materialize.

Naughton sent NIFA a response Thursday that was part refusal and part campaign brochure. It argued that the county ended 2015 and 2016 with budget surpluses. This is an old argument between the county and NIFA, which figures its numbers based on generally accepted accounting principles, which do not recognize borrowed money or fund transfers as revenue.

“They are in the predicament they are in because they have failed to acknowledge they are running these deficits,” NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky told The Point. Barsky said that if the county doesn’t make budget cuts, NIFA will. Barsky said he wants the county to get an early start on the plan, because it’s an election year, and the process could be unusually tough.

And part of his thinking, he acknowledged, is based on the idea that Mangano, under indictment on federal corruption charges, will not seek a third term this November, so a new team coming in January will need to have a blueprint waiting.

But Mangano hasn’t said he’s not running. And Naughton’s letter touted a list of what it said are Mangano successes: the budget “surpluses,” recently improved credit ratings, a 1,700-worker reduction in staffing, union employee contributions to health care and a promised end to borrowing for termination costs, judgments and settlements and property-tax refunds. It could easily be read as a justification to seek four more years.

Lane Filler

To The Point

Hope for quiet on the third track front

Usually, local residents hope their political leaders will speak up.

For the next three weeks, though, supporters of the Long Island Rail Road’s third track are hoping for silence.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Capital Program Review Board has until June 23 to veto the amended MTA capital plan. The board has four members: representatives of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the State Senate, and the State Assembly.

If they say nothing between now and June 23, the MTA can begin work on the projects approved in its capital plan — including the $1.95 billion LIRR third track project between Floral Park and Hicksville. If any of the review board members speak up, it would be to block the full plan — and that could derail the third track.

So, all eyes, and ears are on Sen. Martin Golden, the State Senate’s representative to the board. That’s because two state senators — Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) and Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) — have expressed doubts about the third track effort. But in reality, the future of the project lies mostly in the hands of Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), whose decision on the third track will either lead Golden to speak up or, preferably, stay silent. Flanagan has taken no public position.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Traffic jam

Have a laugh before the weekend

Talking Point

Follow the Ed Cox timeline

It was about a week after the inauguration of President Donald Trump that the name of Carter Page, the former volunteer campaign adviser on foreign policy, started to circulate in discussions of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

At least part of the reason was the famed “dossier” from British ex-spy Christopher Steele that set so much investigation and accusation in motion. The dossier said Page, an international businessman with an office near Trump Tower, was recommended to the Trump campaign by former chairman Paul Manafort, whose Russian connections are well-established and continue to be investigated.

But now New York Republican Party chairman Ed Cox says he got to know Carter Page during John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. “We interacted with him a lot in that contest,” Cox told The Point. “When Carter inquired about getting involved, I flipped an email over to Corey [Lewandowski] introducing him.” At the time, Lewandowski was managing Trump’s campaign.

Those with an eye on the timeline and a memory for New York GOP history might be surprised by this. Page joined the Trump effort in March 2016, but Cox did not endorse Trump until after his fellow New Yorker won the home state primary on April 19, all but sealing the nomination.

The two men have had an up-and-down relationship, with Cox discouraging a Trump gubernatorial run in 2014, and Trump saying of Cox at that time, “He’s never won anything, so he doesn’t know how to win.”

But Cox says his relationship with Trump had thawed before he recommended Page to the campaign, that by the end of 2016 the two were getting along fine.

“We set the policy that we were not going to endorse at the state level in 2016 because we wanted a clean, decisive primary, and that’s exactly what we got," Cox said. “Donald Trump won the nomination in New York.”

Trump has been openly gracious toward Cox since, particularly noting that Cox’s decision to use New York GOP funds to bolster the Trump campaign in swing states, including Pennsylvania, had a big impact on the race.

Lane Filler

Columns