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Thursday, April 24, 2014
Near the top of both agendas, Long Beach's deficit
Weisenberg and Sussman differ over city's deficit financing request

The two candidates revealed stark differences when it came to their stance on how Long Beach should address a projected deficit of nearly $10 million.

Harvey Weisenberg said that he has worked well with a Republican colleague, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and explained that the two recently teamed up to pass legislation that allowed the city to amortize the cost of payments for voluntary early retirement incentive programs over five years.

But Weisenberg added that he was disappointed that another bill — which passed the Assembly by a wide margin, and would have allowed the city to issue millions of dollars in serial bonds to pay down its deficit over 10 years at a lower interest rate — died in the Senate.

On May 24, the City Council submitted a home rule request to the State Legislature seeking approval to issue up to $15 million in bonds to reduce the deficit, replace cash-flow borrowing and ease the burden on taxpayers. According to Weisenberg, the legislation would have cut a proposed tax hike by half.

“Home rule messages are usually not denied in Albany, but unfortunately it happened,” Weisenberg said, adding that he could not speak for Skelos. “Professionally, he had his reasons.”

For his part, Dr. David Sussman said that Skelos informed him that the legislation had not passed partly because the city asked for the ability to borrow up to $15 million when it had projected a deficit of $10.25 million.

“He did remind me that there were debts from Long Beach to in effect buy out certain employees that were allowed to be bonded from the state, so it wasn’t a complete washout,” Sussman said. “Other than him saying that you can’t kick the can down the road, I can’t speak … for Dean Skelos.”

But Weisenberg argued that while the Long Beach bill did have a $15 million cap, Senate Republicans had introduced legislation that would have allowed Nassau County to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars, over the objections of a state financial control board.

“The Nassau County bill didn’t have any cap on it,” Weisenberg said, adding that he was disappointed when he read a newspaper article that quoted Skelos as saying he had agreed to sponsor the Long Beach bill as a courtesy. “If this is politics, then this is a fine example of what happens when politics takes over government.”

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