Civil Service Employees Association members offer support as union president...

Civil Service Employees Association members offer support as union president Jerry Laricchiuta speaks to the Nassau legislature before it voted to give the county executive power to slash $40 million in spending (May 21, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

When the Nassau County Legislature's Republican majority voted Monday to bestow upon County Executive Edward Mangano their own power to cut up to $40 million in spending, without further approval from the legislature, it made two things clear. The majority's members showed they lack the courage to vote for the individual cuts themselves and risk offending county employees, organized and not, and those who use Nassau services and facilities. Worse, by voting after they said they wouldn't -- and after dozens of people intending to speak against the measure therefore left -- they showed that their integrity is lacking as well.

None of this helps solve the basic problem: As it stands, county revenues will lag expenses by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three years, and borrowing cannot fill the entire hole. Significant cuts are needed, even beyond the $90 million Mangano has identified.

The unions are headed to court to argue Mangano can't make cuts on his own, regardless of this new law. Further, they'll contend that he can't slash in a way that defies their contracts.

So the county will be forced into court to defend the right of Republican legislators to absolve themselves of their responsibilities as elected officials, in the hope that by refusing to do their jobs they can keep those jobs in the next election.

Has any of this saved the county money? No. Instead, the lawsuits will cost money. Has it changed the basic reality of the legislature? No, the 10 votes that passed this law are the same 10 votes that could pass any cuts Mangano wants, the same 10 votes that approved, for instance, the police precinct closings.

So rather than finding realistic ways to address the county's budget morass, this crew has gone in for unworkable theatrics and political positioning that will land the county in court.

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