Minority Leader Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and the Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature are continuing to work closely with New York State Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli on a plan to drastically revamp the budget process in Nassau County. The plan, which Albany Democrats have presented in the form of a draft bill, calls for New York State Comptroller Carl McCall to oversee the county's budget process. The 19-page draft bill, called the Nassau County Fiscal Reform and Responsibility Act of 1999, also would require that the county executive prepare a four-year financial plan with each year's budget.
DiNapoli is negotiating in Albany on behalf of the Nassau Assembly Democrats. Democratic county lawmakers have been providing input into the draft bill for several weeks now, as the county's fiscal troubles reach a crescendo.
"Nassau County is now faced with a two-year $300 million deficit and its bond rating has been lowered to near junk-bond status," said Jacobs. "It's time for this county to get some 'R & R'¬Reform and Responsibility¬and we believe that this bill will put us on the right road to fiscal health."
In addition to Jacobs, the Legislature's Democratic caucus, Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck), Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), Barbara Johnson (D-Port Washington) and Michael Zapson (D-Long Beach), all agree that any oversight of the county's budget process must have "teeth," so that the county doesn't find itself in the same situation year after year.
"A bailout now will only fix the immediate problem," said Legislator Jacobs. "We need major reforms in the budget process so that we don't find ourselves in the same financial mire in years to come."
Several of the components of the draft bill have come directly from legislation proposed by county Democrats over the past four years.
The draft bill calls for:
* The county executive to submit a financial plan to the state comptroller, along with his budget for the upcoming year. This plan would cover a four-year period beginning with the next fiscal year. (Currently, the county executive does not make any financial projections beyond the current fiscal year.)
* The state comptroller to determine whether the financial plan is complete. If the comptroller approves the budget and certifies it, the budget would then move onto legislative hearings and public comment. If the comptroller gives the budget a failing grade, the comptroller would then send it back to the county executive for a "do-over."
* The comptroller to formulate and adopt a financial plan for the county if the comptroller is still not satisfied with the county executive's '"do-over," until such time that the county executive comes up with a suitable plan.
* The establishment of a 15-member "Blue Ribbon Panel" that would review the county's financial plan, the budget, capital and maintenance plans, debt-level and procurement process, and salary and benefits of all non-union county employees.
"We must put an end to business as usual in this county," Jacobs said. "This bill is a bold move in that direction and into the future."