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Tough Choices

Dear Editor:

An irresponsible legislator is one who calls for cutting county taxes and revenues while hypocritically voting for every spending increase that comes across his desk. Consequently, the public should be very leery of some demagogues who tell you they will be putting in legislation to cut taxes on everything from clothing to gasoline without showing where they will make cuts to offset the lost revenue.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has garnered a reputation as a fiscal conservative by introducing pared down budgets and exercising the veto pen as often as it takes to curb excessive spending. That includes making tough decisions, saying no, and often angering interest groups. He doesn't cut a revenue until he first finds the offset in the other parts of the budget so we don't wind up having to increase property taxes to make up the difference. Last year when some legislators put in resolutions to cut the county's fuel oil tax, he challenged them to make the cuts in the budget that were necessary to avoid property tax increases as a result. They soon backed down. Instead he called for a budget that did indeed make the cuts necessary to allow us to cut the fuel tax by 40% without creating a deficit in our budget, threatening our bond rating, or raising our property taxes.

One particular legislator, Ed Romaine, is trying to be all things to all people. One minute he is sending out a press release that we need to hire a thousand more people in Suffolk County government. Then he calls for the hiring of more nurses, more police and allocating more revenue sharing to towns and villages. He calls for the purchase of a $5.7 million dredge and a $6 million helicopter. Yet, he votes against making cuts to the budget and against the budget deficit reduction plan. He votes to provide management employees step increases to their salary and opposes reform efforts to end the ridiculous system that allows employees to cash out over $250,000 in sick leave upon retirement.

A legislator has the right to consistently vote for more spending if he is going have the guts to vote for the revenues to pay for it. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with voting against increasing revenues or voting to decrease revenues if you are going to make the tough choices to cut spending in the budget.

What is totally irresponsible and hypocritical is when legislators put in grandstanding bills to cut revenues on gasoline and clothing, while failing to take other tough votes to make cuts in the budget to pay for it. The County Executive will be examining ways to further shave off these taxes that the people have to bear, but we will do so in a responsible way that will continue to provide property tax relief for the people of this county. We will do so in the same fiscally responsible manner which was recognized by the rating agencies on Wall Street [that] recently gave our system of governance the highest bond rating in our history.

Ben Zwirn, Assistant Deputy County Executive
June 06, 2006

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