Nassau County's Budget Sickness Takes a Turn for the Worse
An update to the story I posted about twice (here and here) in late December: As David Halbfinger reported in the New York Times yesterday, Nassau County, NY -- the wealthy county next to Queens on Long Island-- has had its finances taken over by a state oversight board because of it's inability or unwillingness to deal with its budget deficit.
The takeover was supposed to be considered in late December but the decision was delayed when the county's executive, Republican Edward Mangano, asked for and received three additional weeks to come up with a budget the oversight board considered to be serious and balanced. After cutting county taxes a year or so ago but not cutting spending to offset the impact, Mangano apparently continued to rely on proposals the oversight board thought were nothing but gimmicks. The vote was 6 to 0 to take over the finances and was supported by Democrats, a Republican, a Conservative, and an independent.
What did Mangano do in response to the takeover vote? He criticized the board for not taking over the county's finances in a way that would allow it to immediately freeze the salaries of county workers.
Let me see if I have this right. First, Mangano refuses in his budget to freeze county employee salaries. Second, he complains that the oversight board didn't freeze those same salaries. In other words, Mangano refused to propose doing something and then criticized others for also not doing it.
It's hard not to get the sense that, in spite of his very public protests, Mangano wanted the county's finances to be taken over by the state so that it would be the one that froze salaries and changed other contracts. Then...with the budget under control and others blamed for the heavy lifting...he thinks he'll go back to making the spending and revenue decisions for the county.
This is why I said a month ago that a take over by the state should include a requirement that the county executive immediately be removed from office and banned from running for reelection for the same position. (Note: I also was in favor of CEOs and boards of directors having to resign if they requested a federal bailout or received TARP funds.) Elected officials should feel political pain from a situation like this rather than pssibly benefit from it.