Spending task force passes
SUFFOLK COUNTY—Legis. Steve Flotteron (R-West Islip) recently introduced legislation to the Budget and Finance Committee in an effort to create a Spending Task Force. The bill was unanimously accepted before being passed by the full Legislature at the latest general meeting last week.
Flotteron, a former Islip Town councilmember who was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature last year, is a member of the Budget and Finance Committee, along with chair Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), vice chair Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), Sarah Anker (D-Mt. Sinai), Susan Berland (D-Commack) and Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic).
The task force, according to Flotteron, will take an in-depth look at Suffolk County’s spending. It will include members, composed of government officials and the business community, in an effort to “ensure an unbiased view of the county’s finances being examined.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will get to pick one member, as will the Democratic majority caucus, the minority caucus and Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, a Republican. There will also be three members from the business community, chosen by Bellone, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) and the Republican minority caucus.
“An important benefit of this task force is that it comes at no cost to Suffolk County taxpayers,” Flotteron said. “When the county is spending $160 million more a year than it takes in, I believe it’s time to come together and take a bipartisan approach into looking at how we can better spend the county’s money.”
Legis. William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said he “looks forward to the results of the task force.” Lindsay also proposed similar legislation at the last general meeting, which he says will “enable the county to seek proposals from the private sector.”
The legislation, according to Lindsay’s administration, follows the model of the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs seeking investment pitch their business or project to potential investors. The proposal allows for Suffolk County to hold forums where academics, businesses people and other interested private citizens can present ideas to improve the efficiency of the Suffolk County government.
“I believe the private sector is better able to provide real cost-saving options,” Lindsay said. “Unlike government, the private sector demands budgetary restraints.”
The committee would consist of eight members, mostly government officials or their designee.
Nevertheless, minority leader Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) says the county executive can do one of three things in regards to Flotteron’s task force. Bellone could sign it into law; wait 30 days until it automatically goes into law; or veto the entire project. However, Cilmi noted that the latter is highly unlikely, given the fact that the task force was approved unanimously.
Cilmi says he isn’t surprised the legislation passed with bipartisan support, adding that Flotteron made the case that Suffolk County has a “spending problem,” a point that Cilmi says Republicans have been trying to make for a long time. “It would be difficult, politically, for Democrats to oppose something like this,” he said.
Bellone didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
Flotteron doesn’t think the task force will solve the county’s financial problems overnight, but he does believe it will allow elected officials to have a conversation, one he says is very much needed to address spending. “Nickels equal dollars over time,” he said, adding that this will hopefully be the “first of many steps” in tackling the county’s current $2 billion debt.
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