Dems seek to bar votes on unbalanced budgets

Dems seek to bar votes on unbalanced budgets

Democratic Nassau County legislators introduced a bill Monday to prevent the Legislature from passing an unbalanced budget ever again.

The bill would amend the county charter to require the Legislature to both adopt and fully fund a budget for the following fiscal year by Oct. 30. The charter now only requires a budget vote by that date.

The change would keep the Legislature’s Republican majority from punting on controversial revenue proposals, such as County Executive Edward Mangano’s $105 “public safety fee,” until after Election Day, which defeats the purpose of the charter, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) said.

“To do it after Election Day so that you don’t jeopardize any of your colleagues in state or federal government, to me, is wrong,” Abrahams said.

The Legislature adopted a $2.9 billion 2017 county budget last week that has about $70 million less revenue than expenses.

Republicans cut three of the dozens of new and increased fees Mangano proposed, but are looking for alternatives to some others, including the public safety fee. That controversial measure would add a $105 surcharge to any traffic or parking ticket in the county and raise an estimated $64.4 million.

Democrats also called on Republicans to convene a full Legislature meeting and vote on the budget Monday.

Republicans plan to propose new revenue or spending cuts to fill the hole for the Legislature’s approval at its Nov. 21 meeting.

Among them is an amnesty program that would allow business owners to pay 75 percent of the county fines they owe for violating a law that requires owners of investment properties to report income and expenses for those properties.

The penalties could raise up to $105 million, Newsday reported, but the law is being challenged in state court.

The Democrats’ proposed charter amendment is unlikely to be called for a vote by Republican Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves of East Meadow. Democrats thought it would be futile to file any amendments to Mangano’s budget because they would not be considered, Abrahams has said.

In a statement, Gonsalves criticized Democrats for not offering any suggestions to fill the budget hole.

“It is galling that the Democrats are submitting this legislation to restrict potential budget solutions when they have not offered a single idea to amend the budget, regardless of deadlines,” she said.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, deferred questions to the Legislature.

The final county budget is subject to approval by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s state financial control board.

NIFA last week told the county to develop contingency plans for up to $100 million in immediate spending cuts in case NIFA rejects the budget.

By Noah Manskar

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