Dems block override vote on Curran’s amendment vetoes; $3.5 billion budget approved

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Dems block override vote on Curran’s amendment vetoes; $3.5 billion budget approved
Republican legislators said they will not schedule an override vote of a bill to protect police officers from discrimination until they receive support from Josh Lafazan and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

Democratic legislators blocked a Republican-backed override vote on Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s veto of amendments that would eliminate roughly $100 million in county fees and cut taxes by an additional $50 million on Friday.

On Thursday night, Curran vetoed amendments to the proposed 2022 budget, introduced by Republican legislators, which included cutting property taxes by $70 million next year and eliminating the $350 tax map verification fee and the $55 public safety fee as well as reducing the $300 recording fee to $50. 

The tax map verification fee is charged by the county assessor to verify land details in deeds, mortgages, or other real estate documents, while the recording fee is charged by the county for recording and documenting those deeds, mortgages, liens, statutory notices and other filings needed to be re-indexed, officials said.

The public safety fee is a result of traffic and camera violations issued since Jan. 2, 2017.

The amendments also featured cutting seven public relations employees from Curran’s staff to save $1.1 million and creating a county-wide rodent extermination program.

The lLgislature held an emergency vote to override the veto, which would require 13 votes. All eight Democratic legislators opposed the override vote and the measure failed 11-8.

“Unfortunately, members of the Democratic Minority refused to join us,” Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement. “The Republican Majority will continue to fight to provide lasting financial relief to Nassau residents.”

Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman, a Republican running against Curran for her seat in the upcoming election, criticized the county executive for not prioritizing the needs of county taxpayers in her decision to veto the amendments.

“Another Curran middle-class mauling by taking away $50 million in tax cuts and increasing fees by $100 million which is Curran’s hidden tax on residents,” Blakeman said in a statement. “Curran broke the reassessment and raised School Taxes and now she’s driving residents broke.”

Curran’s $3.5 budget, which was passed through the legislature and subsequently approved by her, reduces property taxes by $70 million next year. Curran, on Thursday, said she will continue to prioritize taxpayers, despite criticism from Republican officials, and stressed the importance to remain fiscally responsible.

“I’m proud to cut property taxes to their lowest level in 15 years while fighting back against Legislator Ferretti and the Majority’s dangerous efforts to defund the police,” Curran said in a statement. “This budget keeps Nassau residents safe and prevents the Majority from crashing our county’s finances again.”

“While the Republican Majority seems content to jeopardize Nassau’s fiscal health and imperil funding for essential services for the sake of an election-year stunt, the Minority Caucus will always put people before politics,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said in a statement. “That is why we will uphold the County Executive’s vetoes and continue to work with her to deliver long-term, sustainable relief to our residents.”

Curran credited the county’s fiscal responsibility over the last few years, noting that surplus funds in the 2019 budget ($145 million) and the 2020 budget ($128 million) will allow the county to cut taxes in 2022.

County officials said the $128 million in surplus funds from the 2020 budget will be used to “grow depleted reserves” for whenever the county experiences the “next downturn.” Officials also said the budget remains balanced without the expectation of further funds from the American Rescue Plan, despite Curran’s seeking them.

The county is scheduled to receive $385 million from the American Rescue Plan in 2021 and 2022 after receiving more than $102 million in the CARES Act.

The budget features an overall spending increase of $200 million from the $3.3 billion 2021 budget. The increase includes an additional $45 million allocated to public safety investments.

Some of the expenditures Curran planned include costs to implement the department’s body camera program, funding for future collective bargaining agreements and wage increases, two police classes and two corrections classes for newly sworn officers.

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