The following appears in the October 24-30, 2014 issue of the Long Island Business News:
Dear Governor Cuomo:
Nassau County is a fiscal disaster. Its financial condition is as awful as it was when the state intervened in 2000 to bail out hapless County Executive Tom Gulotta.
You will recall that to head off bankruptcy, the Nassau Legislature unanimously approved a message requesting Albany to create the Nassau Interim Finance Authority with broad oversight powers.
In return for the state’s permission to fund operating deficits with $1.311 billion of borrowed money, the county was to walk down the path of fiscal virtue and to fix its broken property-assessment system.
That promise was not kept, and on January 28, 2011, NIFA was compelled to impose a control period.
To stem the financial hemorrhaging, NIFA approved in December 2011 a long-range recovery plan. The county pledged to achieve a GAAP-balanced budget by fiscal year 2015 and NIFA agreed to permit the county to borrow up to $449 million to help Nassau get through the transition.
Last month, the county issued its proposed budget for fiscal 2015 – and it’s nowhere near GAAP balanced. In fact, the multiyear financial plan projects deficits as far as the eye can see.
Assuming approval of the maximum permitted property-tax increase, NIFA analysts project a GAAP deficit of $210 million. And in the out-years they project deficits of $259 million in 2016, $295 million in 2017 and $325 million in 2018, with no plan to balance.
Who is to blame for this mess? NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman.
After you appointed Kaiman to the board in 2013, he announced he would personally negotiate with the county and the unions a cost-neutral deal to lift the wage freeze. Ignoring warnings of several board members that NIFA should not be in a position of negotiating and then judging union deals, he boasted that as a one-time township district traffic court judge, he successfully negotiated many settlements.
Contrary to his claim, the deal Kaiman persuaded the NIFA board to approve was not cost-neutral. Every objective analysis that predicted the union agreement will cost up to $70 million more a year than it will save is proving true.
Thanks to Kaiman, who turned NIFA from a watchdog to a lapdog, taxpayers will be stuck paying hundreds of millions more deficit-funding debt dollars over the next 30 years.
Let’s face it, Kaiman has been nothing more than a career political hack. After being a Mark Green disciple, he lost races for Hempstead Village board, Nassau County Legislature and Nassau district attorney. In 1999, he managed to get elected to a minor post, North Hempstead Township District judge, but quit after two years to take a town patronage job. He was subsequently elected town supervisor.
However, after 10 years as supervisor, Democrats were grateful when he announced in 2013 he would not seek another term, because they believed he’d lose.
During his tenure, Kaiman – a vulgar and intemperate man – managed to offend scores of constituents. On one occasion, he publicly berated a Catholic priest for referring to Jesus Christ at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. He made headlines when he purportedly got into an altercation at a Jets game and when he managed to aggravate music legend Art Garfunkel at a concert, with his cell phone.
In addition to screwing up at NIFA, Kaiman is floundering in the $150,000-a-year job you gave him to coordinate state support for Hurricane Sandy recovery on Long Island. Newsday recently disclosed Sandy spending is in shambles, with disappointed and enraged homeowners holding the bag two years after the storm.
Governor, if the voters reelect you in November, your first priority should be to clean out the dead wood in your administration. And the first name on the list of people who need to go should be Jon Kaiman.