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Letter: Yatauro Calls for Leadership in State Senate

(This letter is dated June 27.)

Unemployment is still rising. Businesses continue to fail. Municipal governments require assistance to avoid further slashing of vital social programs. Nassau County needs help from Albany to avoid layoffs and the closing of many of our offices, parks and facilities.

Our problems continue to mount. To make matters worse, now the New York State Senate has become embroiled in a power struggle in Albany.

By February it became clear that the national recession had taken its grim toll on Nassau County finances. We depend on sales tax revenue to maintain our budget and provide essential services to our constituents. That income drastically declined over the winter leaving us with a budget gap in the vicinity of $130 million.

To plug this unexpected hole we needed to find new sources of revenue. County Executive Tom Suozzi proposed a three-part solution. First he sought and obtained $45 million in federal stimulus dollars. Second he successfully negotiated with our unions for certain labor concessions, the cornerstone of which was an early retirement incentive for all employees. That component has the potential for a $55 million savings. Lastly, he requested state legislation to help us realize another $30 million.

Those three pieces to the Suozzi plan would fill the budget gap and help us preserve vital county services. However, the second proposed solution, the necessary bonding to pay for retirements, requires state legislative approval, something that at this point is in serious jeopardy.

In addition to the bonding authority, the state legislation we are seeking includes a cigarette tax, a surcharge on traffic/parking violations and the placement of red light cameras to catch and ticket drivers attempting to run red lights. Only the last item, the red light cameras, has been enacted. Once again, the other initiatives are stalled in this stalemate.

We need the state legislature, the state Senate in particular, to return to work and pass our critical legislative agenda. Without action in Albany, we will be facing drastic cuts in our social service programs. We may be facing layoffs which will have a horrible impact on our already devastated economy. Seniors, teenagers and infants will be among the first to suffer.

Solely due to the ravages of this winter’s worldwide monetary collapse and the resulting recession, Nassau County is in dire shape. Consumers are still not spending and sales tax revenues are continuing to decline. Without Albany’s support we must consider a doomsday option to save the county.

Since June 8 the state Senate has been paralyzed in a partisan leadership stand-off. When no one leads, the body falters. So nothing has been accomplished in the state Senate. Our essential legislation sits while Senate leaders wait for the other guy to give in. Compromise is needed. Our constituents desperately need a resolution.

Every passing day of gridlock means hardship and disaster for the people we all represent. The time to act is now. I implore the senators of both parties to return to the Senate chamber, work out a viable, fair compromise and start passing legislation.

To continue this embarrassing gridlock is just plain shameful!

Diane Yatauro

Presiding Officer

Nassau County Legislature