Democrat Tom Suozzi, Nassau’s former two-term county executive, seemed to believe he had a genuine shot at beating the current county executive, Republican Ed Mangano, in this year’s election. And Suozzi seemed stunned, even a little miffed, on Nov. 5, when he lost his second straight bid for Nassau’s highest elected office –– this time by 18 percentage points.
I had little doubt that Mangano would prevail. His campaign was about the here and now. Suozzi’s was about the future. When you’re desperate, you see only the present. And make no mistake: Many Nassau residents are feeling desperate.
Property taxes took center stage in the county executive’s race. Mangano hammered away at one point –– he didn’t raise them in his first term, and he would do all he could to avoid an increase in his second.
Suozzi charged –– correctly –– that Mangano borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid raising property taxes during his first term. Why did he borrow so much? Simple. Sales-tax revenues remained sluggish compared with their pre-recession levels, though they were bolstered by the post-Superstorm Sandy recovery.
So, while Mangano consolidated police precincts, privatized the bus system, slashed social services, froze wages and reduced the work force through attrition over the past four years, revenues failed to meet expenses.
The county had to borrow or raise property taxes to balance its books. Mangano chose to borrow, meaning Nassau did little to pay down its long-term bond obligations. Since 2009, the county’s debt has dropped by only “a fraction of a percentage point,” from $3.451 billion to $3.448 billion, according to Newsday.
Suozzi noted –– correctly –– that the county’s bond obligations will have to be paid off eventually, or a sizable tax increase will be inevitable. Who will pay the price? According to Suozzi, our children will, and he had no qualms about featuring kids in his anti-debt commercials.
Suozzi didn’t recognize one simple truth, though: People want to keep their property taxes level not because they don’t care about their kids’ future. Rather, they’re still hurting financially after the Great Recession.