In a heated debate during the June 7 session of the Legislature regarding an $86 million in proposed bonding for an early retirement incentive program, Minority Leader Diane Yatauro and her Democratic colleagues forced the Mangano administration to admit that it had no intention of using a previously allocated budget amount for that purpose.
The Legislature’s Democrats offered an amendment to reduce the amount of borrowing to the dollar figure suggested by the independent Office of Legislative Budget Review (OLBR). Minority Leader Yatauro pointed to a recent OLBR report suggesting that the County needed to borrow only $62 million to meet the budgetary impact create by those participating in the early retirement incentive. Yatauro said, “The County was warned by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) and Moody’s Investor Services that it has become too reliant on borrowing to meet its financial obligations. This dependency on bonding has to stop. Our amendment, which would have lowered the bonding by $24 million, would have been more fiscally responsible.”
The amendment was defeated on a party line vote.
The 2010 County budget earmarked $26.8 million specifically for termination pay. During the Legislative session, the County Executive’s chief financial advisor, Tim Sullivan, said he wanted to reserve the earmarked funds and use them to fill budget holes the County anticipates. The Democratic Caucus insisted that the administration first expend the $26.8 million to pay for anticipated retirements. The Caucus also demanded that if that money is not used to pay for retirements, is should be utilized for taxpayer benefit.
Minority Leader Yatauro stated, “It’s clear the Mangano administration believes in operating budget belief. We believe in taxpayer relief. The administration wants to apply budget funds allocated for termination pay to fixing their self-created budget problems. We want it given back to the taxpayers.”
Legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), a 15 year veteran of the Legislature who successfully lobbied for the creation of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) during her years as Presiding Officer stated, "We cannot forget our responsibility for sound fiscal decisions. This Administration has removed the Energy Tax, slated to bring in $60 million to the County during these difficult times and has stated there will be no tax increases going forward. These may be favorable comments for all of us to hear, but it is important to remember that in order to provide services there has to be solid revenue to offset them. Unfortunately, this is reminiscent of 10 years ago when actions like these rendered the County one level above junk bond status. Our interest rate on any necessary borrowing going forward is directly affected by the decisions being made today and the bond rating we receive from Wall Street. We will be monitoring this and I urge residents to do the same."
The Democratic Caucus voted for the early retirement package with strong reservations. They vowed to closely monitor how the package is paid for and to file a resolution mandating that any unspent dollars in the already budgeted termination account be returned to County taxpayers or be spent only on threatened County social programs.