Leaders of the New York State Legislature and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo have reached an agreement that would allow Nassau and Suffolk counties to issue bonds to cover budget gaps and would place a jobs-creating bond act on the November ballot.
The accord, reached on Sunday, would also give New York City authority to issue bonds through negotiated sale, and expand the power of the state's thruway authority to fund economic development projects and take over the state's barge canal system. In addition, lawmakers agreed to give the State Job Development Authority the power to issue $150 million bonds.
State lawmakers were deadlocked over these issues when the 1992 legislative session ended on July 3. However, with last weekend's accord, the Legislature will meet in a special session next Tuesday to vote on the measures. The legislation is expected to pass easily.
"I believe this has been one of the most successful legislative sessions since I've been governor," Mr. Cuomo said during a press conference yesterday afternoon. "And may be even before that."
Mr. Cuomo's post-accord enthusiasm, however, overshadowed the deep divisions among state legislative leaders in recent weeks, pitting bills proposed by Republican lawmakers from the Senate against those supported by Democrats in the Assembly.
In the end, however, the prospect of not passing several key bonding bills championed by Mr. Cuomo, state Senate Majority Leader Ralph J. Marino, R-Muttontown, and state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin, D-Queens, forced leaders into a political compromise.
Mr. Cuomo had urged lawmakers to pass his "Jobs for the New, New York" job act, in which the state would issue $800 million of bonds in an attempt to spur New York's sagging economy through low-interest loans and infrastructure development. Counties would share $600 million worth according to population, with each guaranteed at least $2 million.
If passed by the Legislature, voters will decide the measure in November. Lawmakers have to approve the bond act by Aug. 4 to get it on the ballot.
The governor and the Legislature would decide how to spend another $100 million of the money, while the state's economic development commissioner would control the remaining $100 million.
The bill, which the governor has said would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next 10 years, was initially opposed by the Republican-controlled state Senate. Senate leaders said the original legislation did not provide enough county control of the money, which according to William Stevens, a spokesman for Mr. Marino, would have totaled only $200 million of the bonds. As part of the compromise, counties would receive the $600 million.
Mr. Marino, a Nassau County Republican from Oyster Bay, fought hard to provide Nassau and Suffolk counties with the legislative authority to issue bonds and raise taxes. At the same time, he fought an Assembly plan to pass the bills only if the counties established an independent oversight panel.
The Assembly wanted a control board with powers to reject budgets and bonding proposals, much like the one established to oversee New York City's finances after the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.
In the end, the Assembly approved each county's taxing and borrowing authority, while the Senate and Republicans on the county level agreed to a watered-down version of a financial control board, and some additional oversight from the state Comptroller's office.
As a result, Nassau will issue $65 million of six-year deficit bonds and increase its mortgage-recording tax to 2%, from 1%, for its 1992 budget. Suffolk will issue $36 million of deficit bonds with maturities up to six years to cover its 1991 deficit.
The agreement gives Suffolk some room to issue bonds to cover a potential 1992 budget deficit. The state comptroller's office will determine the amount. As part of the deal Suffolk would increase its sales tax to 8.5% from 8%.
Suffolk County officials estimate a deficit for 1991 and 1992 of $47 million on its $1.3 billion budget. In Nassau, officials estimate a budget deficit of $135 million on its $1.8 billion budget.
The accord also renews New York City's authority to issue negotiated debt. In the weeks before the legislative session ended, the measure passed the Assembly, but failed in the Senate.
Additionally, the city achieved several technical corrections to the state law governing its sales of variable-rate debt. The corrections will make it easier for the city to attract letters of credit that are needed for such sales. The corrections will remove an interest-rate cap on accrued claims against the city, and allow the city to use letters of credit from entities other than banks or insurance companies.
The city, however, did not obtain the legislative permission to issue foreign-denominated bonds. Lawmakers had opposed the bill because they thought it opened the city up to too much risk in the foreign exchange market.
But city officials have said they will be able to hedge their foreign currency risk and still plan on issuing yen-denominated bonds in October through a special-purpose corporation, which is allowed under state law.
New York's Legislative Accord
1 "Jobs for New, New York" job act in which the state would issue $800 million of bonds. If passed by the legislature, voters will decide the measure in November. 2 New York City allowed to sell debt through negotiated sale. In addition, the city also recieved several technical corrections to the state law governing its sales of variable-rate debt. The city did not obtain the legislative permission to issue foreign-denominated bonds. 3 Gave the state Job Development Authority the power to issue $150 million of bonds. 4 Expand the power of the state's Thruway Authority to fund economic development projects and take over the state's barge canal system. 5 Nassau Country allowed to issue up to $65 million in six-year bonds plus a 1% increase in the county's mortgage recording tax to 2% to help cover a $135 million projected budget gap in fiscal 1992, which ends Dec. 31. 6 Suffolk County allowed to sell up to $36 million in deficit bonds to cover fiscal 1991 shortfall, as well as a yet to be determined amount needed to cover the fiscal 1992 budget deficit. The county was allowed to raise its sales tax to 8.5% from 8%.