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Easy Passage for Consolidation Bill

Local Lawmakers, to No Avail, Oppose ‘Dissolution’ Legislation

Legislation that could dramatically alter the way Nassau County is governed has sailed its way through Albany.

In quick order, both the New York State Assembly and State Senate have approved a bill making it easier for villages throughout the state to be dissolved.

The votes in both chambers were overwhelming in favor of the legislation, entitled the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.” It passed the Assembly by a 118-26 vote and was approved by the State Senate by a similar 46-16 margin.

Both Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R.-Massapequa) and State Senator Charles Fuschillo (R.-Freeport) voted against the bill. However, the bill, titled A08501 in the Assembly and S.5661 in the Senate, had plenty of bipartisan support.

The bill, which is now sitting on the governor’s desk, would stipulate that signatures by only 10 percent of the registered voting population would be required to begin the village dissolution process. Currently, signatures by 33 percent of the registered voting population are needed for that same process to get started.

The legislation has been spearheaded by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who claims that it would streamline governments in favor of a more cost-effective way of delivering services to residents.

“We have the historic opportunity to pass legislation that will empower citizens, streamline New York’s antiquated local government system and reduce the tremendous tax burden that New Yorkers deal with every day,” said Cuomo in a press release about the legislation.

Saladino told The Massapequan Observer that he opposed the bill because it did not contain “any language that would guarantee taxpayer savings.”

“In addition, it [the bill] would allow an entity like Nassau County, which is currently running an enormous deficit, to take over our towns who have a near perfect bond rating and who are running government in an exemplary fashion,” Saladino added. “The motivation would be to go after these governments’ finances in an effort to bail out the county’s deficit without any property tax reduction.

“Another concern of a bill written so watered down is that it enables the Assembly to claim victory in taxpayer relief when in reality the bill does not ensure any such relief,” Saladino further claimed. “A better solution would be to pass the Property Taxpayers Protection Act which guarantees savings and drives a larger and more fair share of state aid to Long Island schools and municipalities…We must make real property tax savings the highest priority and we must get this done immediately. It is important that the public not buy into gimmicks, which do not guarantee a substantial solution. It is my hope that the legislature will return to the drawing board and greatly amend this legislation to provide a plan which will guarantee real savings and protect municipalities like the Town of Oyster Bay and the Town of Hempstead, which are financially sound, have the highest bond ratings, and provide quality services at a very affordable price. Albany must act now to bring real relief, instead of a shell game which takes tax dollars from one pocket and transfers it to another.”

A statement from Senator Fuschillo’s office said that he opposed the legislation because it does not inform residents about the financial impact of consolidation until after the vote is taken.

“Senator Fuschillo feels strongly that residents should know what the financial implications of consolidation would be before they cast their votes,” the statement read. “Senator Fuschillo continues to support initiative and referendum, which would allow residents to put consolidation proposals on the ballot but also require a financial impact disclosure prior to the vote.”