Peconic Great South Baykeeper
Letter to the Editor- Shell Games and Shenanigans, Sept. 3, 2014


- Letter to the Editor -

Shell Games and Shenanigans

In Tuesday’s paper, Newsday reported on the activities of a bipartisan Suffolk County Legislative Committee that is working to reduce the county “pipeline debt” (Newsday, 08-26-2014, Rick Brand). According to the article, the committee was launched “after the legislature approved a package of capital budget amendments that increase County Executive Steve Bellone's proposed 2015 capital budget by $22.78 million and his three-year capital plan by $58 million. The aim was to offset those increases.”

 The article goes on to state, “the largest capital projects that the committee recommended shelving was $19.5 million in the legacy environmental land acquisition program and $8.3 million in the multi-faceted land purchase program. Lawmakers noted the loss of the programs will be offset because the county recently agreed to fund more than $29 million in new land acquisitions to end a lawsuit with environmentalists.” 

The only problem is…it isn’t true. The 29 million isn’t “new” funding. It is a repayment of the money that the Legislature previously misappropriated from the County’s Drinking Water Protection Fund to balance previous budgets. The lawsuit was brought by environmental organizations to compel the County to pay the money back. The parties agreed in July to settle the suit subject to the repayment of the misappropriated funds and a commitment to require a mandatory referendum for any future changes to the drinking water protection program, among other items.

So, now the same Legislature that agreed to return 29 million in Drinking Water Protection Funds that were raided to balance the budget is cutting 27.8 million in open space funds based on the logic that the money that they just agreed to pay back under the threat of litigation is “new” money.  To add insult to injury, it also appears the County is delaying the introduction of a ballot initiative which would make future changes to the popular drinking water protection fund subject to voter approval.

Shell games and broken promises are perfect examples of why there is such pervasive distrust in government today and why our water quality continues to suffer.   

 

Daniel J. Gulizio

Interim Executive Director

 

 



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