At the Suffolk County Legislature’s June 5 meeting, County Executive Steve Bellone abandoned 40 years of precedents and combined 29 capital project bonding resolutions into two all-or-nothing bills.
Previously, whenever the county executive would propose a capital project resolution, it would come with an accompanying bond resolution, which would authorize the borrowing necessary to pay for just that project. That provided valuable oversight and transparency.
The two bundled bond resolutions would have authorized approximately $24 million of borrowing, most of which would have passed had they been presented individually. Because, however, these bonding resolutions were bundled together, Republicans voted no, causing the bonds to fail.
Over the past few months, Republicans have voted against a handful of individual bonding resolutions for a variety of reasons. For example, there are certain projects we believe could be and should be paid for out of the $3 billion in taxes you’ve already paid. The county executive’s assertion that since we voted for the project, we should vote for the bond — or how we pay for the project — is a distraction.
Recently, we borrowed to pay for things that in years past would be paid for with cash from the county’s operating budget. Consequently, the county’s debt has grown to historic levels and debt payments are now in excess of $100 million annually.
In an attempt to bully the legislature into approving borrowing for all of the projects he wants, the county executive combined the resolutions. If he couldn’t get them all on their own, he figured by combining them together, members would be forced to vote yes or risk losing something important to each of us. Nevertheless, we voted no.
Imagine our surprise when, at our next meeting on June 19, we were again presented with bundled bonds. This time, however, the county executive included a $2 million project to provide a panic button app to schools throughout Suffolk. Despite questions about how exactly the app would be used, and despite questions about the desire of school districts to utilize the app — questions which, by the way, persist — the project bill passed.
The bond, however, because the county executive chose to bundle it with other bonds, failed. Minutes after the vote took place, the county executive announced a press conference to deride Republicans for voting against this public safety initiative.
Bellone knew full well that we would vote against a bundled bond resolution. If he was truly interested in deploying this app, he would have separated it from the bundled bonds and it likely would have been approved. Clearly, this was a preconceived scheme, an opportunity to criticize Republicans, which frankly is shameful. Any blame for the failure of this bond rests squarely on the shoulders of the county executive.
Tom Cilmi is the Suffolk GOP Minority Leader