Challenger Chris Nuzzi launched the first salvo . . . and it hit incumbent Jay Schneiderman right in the pocketbook.
The pair is squaring off in the race for county legislator. Nuzzi is running on the Republican ticket and Schneiderman is an Independence Party candidate, running on the Democratic line.
On Monday afternoon Nuzzi, currently a Southampton town councilman, chastised his opponent for voting in 2012 to freeze his own pay, then subsequently taking a raise. As reported by Newsday earlier this month, Schneiderman was among a dozen lawmakers who voted for the freeze last year. Of them, only five actually followed through with the refusal to accept a cost of living increase.
Nuzzi finds Schneiderman's public vote, then private acceptance of the increase "disingenuous." It's a move, he said, that "violates the public trust and is indicative of someone who has been representing himself in Hauppauge for too long." Nuzzi called upon his opponent to return the pay increase.
According to the published report, two of the lawmakers who voted for the freeze, then took the increase, called their acceptance of the extra pay an oversight they would attempt to rectify. Two others said they'd already accepted a voluntary "lag payroll" that defers four percent of their salaries until they leave county employ.
Schneiderman also participates in the voluntary "lag payroll" program. He explained that last summer, lawmakers sponsored the measure in an effort to get the county's union employees to concede their cost of living increase. "I said at the time, that if they'd do it, I'd do it. They didn't," Schneiderman explained.
He clarified that the "symbolic" resolution authorized legislators to voluntarily decline the increase. "What was I supposed to do, say 'No, they can't reduce their own salaries if they wanted'? I made clear at the time that if the union did it, I would, too." The increase, he emphasized, is an annual cost of living "adjustment" built into the county charter. "It's not a raise," Schneiderman said. He pointed out that lawmakers also voted to increase their own health care contributions, again predicated on an identical union concession. That didn't happen either.
"I never voted myself a raise," Schneiderman said, adding, "More important, I never voted for a property tax increase in 14 years."
"Right out of the box he goes negative," the incumbent said of Nuzzi. "I guess for his eight years as a councilman he has no accomplishments to tout."
Well, maybe one… Nuzzi hasn't taken a raise for the last six of his eight years in office. "I never even considered it," he said "I've been making $60,000 for six of the eight years."
The rate for county legislators last year was $93,958. It's $96,570 this year.