The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Mike Barry Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00Nassau County governmental employees received more grim news last week when the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) announced it was again using its statutory power to freeze their wages for another year.
NIFA’s action means there will have been no wage hikes for the county’s 7,600 plus member workforce dating back to April 2011, and continuing through the end of March 2013. The dollar savings to Nassau’s general fund are significant: $35 million that would otherwise have been allocated for contractually mandated wage hikes is paying other bills.
County employees did not come away from NIFA’s March 22 meeting empty-handed. NIFA remained silent on the issue of benefits. As such, the overwhelming majority of Nassau’s governmental employees will continue to pay nothing toward their health insurance premiums, letting Nassau County pay the entire tab. That single budget line could rise 11 percent in 2012 as compared to 2011.
The county’s taxpayers, and Nassau employees fall into that category, too, can otherwise be heartened by the concrete steps being taken to reduce Nassau’s spending as county sales tax revenues, its single largest source of income, remain flat. While the employee wage freeze received the headlines, NIFA also highlighted publicly some of the other cost-saving measures the Mangano administration and the county Legislature have implemented in recent months. I’ll offer some details here.
Nassau, for instance, is paying $2.5 million in 2012 to Veolia Transportation, the private-sector firm, which manages the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) on a day-to-day basis. NICE succeeded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Long Island Bus (LIB) system effective Jan. 1, 2012. Nassau paid the MTA $9.6 million in 2011 to help them finance LIB’s operations so nearly $7 million was saved this year.
The county expects to reduce its overall expenditures another $5.5 million annually after agreeing to have Armor Correctional Health Services, a private entity, replace Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) as the provider of medical care to inmates at the county jail in East Meadow. Armor’s two-year contract took effect in June 2011.
Meanwhile, having implemented changes to the ways in which the county’s eight police precincts deliver services, Nassau County believes it can now save upwards of another $20 million. The GOP’s ability to deliver these promised cost-savings will be closely watched because it took a Republican county executive, and 10 Republican county legislators, to enact the precinct realignment plan. The nine Democrats on the county legislature ardently defended the status quo, and voted against the Mangano administration and the county’s GOP lawmakers on the most contentious public policy issue of the day in Mineola.
Nonetheless, NIFA acknowledged last week that the county’s finances bear continued monitoring. Nassau at the moment must still shoulder the entire burden of paying any refunds which arise after a Nassau property owner successfully challenges their county-calculated tax assessment, an expense the county wants to share with other municipalities, NIFA noted in materials the state agency posted online. And NIFA approved only $70 million for capital projects, little more than half of what the county planned for 2012. The move will force Nassau’s elected officials to determine which previously scheduled initiatives must be put on hold.