The following appears in the March 26, 2010 issue of the Long Island Business News:
On his 75th day in office, Nassau Executive Ed Mangano revealed to taxpayers, in his first State of the County address, the dire financial condition of the county government he inherited from Tom Suozzi. Mangano characterized the county’s finances as “deeply troubled.”
The county executive was brutally honest and wisely quoted these words from Lincoln at the beginning of his presentation: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
Mangano has learned that in 2009 Suozzi – who was telling anyone who would listen that he planned to bid farewell to Nassau on January 1, 2011 because on that day he would be sworn in as New York’s governor or lieutenant governor or attorney general or comptroller – utilized fiscal smoke and mirror techniques, cut deals that will haunt taxpayers for years to come and buried plenty in the proverbial bottom desk drawer to get by in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
Here are a few examples of what Mangano has so far discovered:
In fiscal 2009 Suozzi budgeted only $50 million for tax assessment errors. The actual payout was $114.5 million.
Suozzi buried $120 million of property tax increases in his four-year financial plan. Suozzi’s assumption that a 2010 cigarette tax increase would yield $16 million in revenue was wrong.
Suozzi’s 2010 county sales tax revenue projection is expected to be off by $12.7 million.
Suozzi approved collective bargaining contracts that included $43 million in raises and back pay without a plan to pay for these reckless giveaways.
Thanks to Suozzi’s wishful thinking and miscalculations, a projected 2010 deficit must now be funded to the tune of $48.5 million. Worse still, in 2011 (the year Suozzi planned to move to Albany) Nassau’s deficit could be more than $250 million – a staggering 10 percent of county tax revenue.
To deal with this mess, Mangano has developed for 2010 a $49 million Taxpayers Savings Plan. The strategy rests on the plausible assumption that there are plenty of managerial positions in county government that can be eliminated.
Big government types, who are more concerned with empire building and process than achieving results, build layers of redundant management to enhance their personal power. When I was executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, I identified 14 layers of management over the people who did the real work at the region’s airports, bridges and tunnels.
In an agency reorganization that held the line on toll and fare increases, seven layers of management were eliminated while improving services.
Ed Mangano is taking a similar approach. To set an example, he has slashed the cost of his executive staff by $2 million. Total staffing has been cut by $22 million and the headcount is expected to decline even further after a job-by-job review of Nassau’s 47 departments is completed.
The county executive also admitted that if Nassau is not to fall into the fiscal abyss, if it is to retain and grow jobs, the county’s broken assessment system must be fixed and a new four-year financial plan must be developed “based on our taxpayers’ limited resources to fund government.” Mangano understands that county government must be right-sized “because the taxpayers can’t afford the government we have.”
Mangano has proposed an ambitious, sensible and necessary plan to clean up Suozzi’s mess. Hopefully big government leeches, imperious political bosses and their lackeys don’t hamper its implementation.