Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone proposed streamlining government processes, warned of continued budget deficits and rallied for rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy during his second State of the County address Tuesday night.
Between reflecting on his first year in office and doling out accolades, the first-term Democrat spent a significant portion of his speech reinforcing to legislators his plan to sell the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank—a local political hot potato. If its sale does not go through, explained Bellone, he’d be forced to close the facility.
“The state of our county is that we are rebuilding,” Bellone, the former Babylon Town Supervisor, said before a packed legislative chamber in Hauppauge. “This is a county that has faced challenges before and always emerged stronger.”
His address comes as Long Island waits for billions in federal Sandy aid dollars to begin flowing nearly four months after the historic storm that seriously strained government resources across the tri-state area.
Bellone also reiterated support for the police department’s shift toward focusing on recidivism reduction, intelligence-led policing and improving the monitoring of sex offenders after he appointed Commissioner Ed Webber.
Legis. John Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), leader of the GOP minority, questioned Bellone’s management skills and whether the county exec’s quest to speed up government would mean bypassing the legal processes established in the county charter.
“It appears that were tripping over ourselves to save pennies, when dollars are flying out of the window,” said Kennedy, vowing to launch an inquiry into the recent record-setting blizzard in his 10-minute Republican response to Bellone’s hour-long speech.
“Despite all of the changes that we have made to make our government smaller and more efficient, we still have a significant structural deficit,” Bellone said, meaning Suffolk still has more annual bills than recurring revenues after cutting 700 county workers. “While we’ve made great progress, we still have a long way to go.”