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OpinionOpEd

Pick your battles

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Daily Point

Suffolk County is finally out of the nursing home business

With the closing of the sale of the Suffolk County-owned John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility to Brookhaven Hospital on Friday, an accounting can be made of the cost to taxpayers of efforts to block Suffolk from getting out of the nursing home business.

The exact figure depends on whom you ask and when you start the meter running, but no matter how you look at it, the delays were expensive. And the eventual sale to a public entity rather than a private one, regardless of its positive aspects, means residents will keep paying.

In 2012, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had a tentative deal to sell Foley to private operators Sam and Israel Sherman for $23 million. That would have netted $8 million more than Brookhaven Hospital paid, forestalled four years of upkeep at $750,000 a year and put the facility on the tax rolls, bringing in $500,000 to various taxing entities.

So breaking up that deal cost at least $13 million, plus $500,000 a year in perpetuity now that the facility will remain off the tax rolls.

But go back to 2010 and consider the agreement then-County Executive Steve Levy had to sell to Kenneth Rozenberg for $36 million. The cost of not completing that deal is far higher: $21 million less for the property, about $1 million a month in losses while Suffolk continued to operate Foley, then the upkeep once the facility closed in June 2013 and remained off the tax rolls. Call it $55 million.

For a county struggling to balance its books, that was a lot of money to stop the closure and sale of a nursing home that was, in the end, closed and sold.

Lane Filler

Talking Point

Pro-charter group spends big on LI

New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a PAC backed by StudentsFirstNY, spent big to try to keep the New York State Senate in Republican hands, according to filings with the state Board of Elections.

The PAC, which favored Flower Hill Mayor Elaine Phillips in the 7th Senate District, paid $2.6 million for TV and radio ads against East Hills businessman Adam Haber, labeling him a big-spending, tax-loving liberal. The ads warned that if the Senate were to flip to Democrats’ control, the likes of Mayor Bill de Blasio would control every branch of state government. Phillips, a Republican, won the seat with 52 percent of the votes.

The PAC also spent $330,000 in ads in the 8th District against Democratic nominee John Brooks of Seaford, who was 33 votes ahead of incumbent Sen. Michael Venditto of Massapequa before officials began counting 6,000 absentee ballots, a process still underway. Carl Marcellino of Syosset, who was re-elected in the 5th District, was another GOP incumbent who benefited from Balanced Albany’s deep pockets.

So, what’s on the Albany agenda for StudentsFirstNY? The advocacy group wants more charter schools, but also a tuition tax credit for religious and private schools, and opposes weakening the annual 2 percent cap on tax hikes for public schools.

A school board member in Roslyn, Haber received nearly $655,000 in campaign ad and polling support from the Fund for Great Public Schools, a PAC affiliated with New York State United Teachers. That’s about one-third of the total $2.3 million spent on Haber’s campaign, both in direct spending and by independent expenditure committees.

As it turns out, the 7th SD was a proxy war for education reform in New York.

Anne Michaud

Pencil Point

Improvements on the LIRR

Click here to see more cartoons by Matt Bodkin.

Bonus Point

A campaign promise that will be hard to keep

There are some campaign promises that President-elect Donald Trump will find fairly easy to honor; others are far more unlikely.

One long shot: Term limits for members of Congress, which Trump has revisited post-election because voters clearly want to get rid of the permanent political establishment.

How would it work?

A 1995 Supreme Court decision found that congresssional term limits would have to be implemented via constitutional amendment. The president has no direct role in that process, which would entail one of two laborious routes: either a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures, or two-thirds majority votes in both the House and Senate. Then, in either case, the proposed amendment would have to be ratified by 38 states.

All previous amendments have gone through Congress. This case would require Congress to vote overwhelmingly to limit itself. Multiple previous attempts have failed to even get close. However, Trump did win at least 29 states, and if Congress bucks him on this issue, he might be willing to attempt another long shot.

Mark Chiusano

Columns