OP-ED – Robert Trotta “And the band played on…”
I have spent my entire tenure as Suffolk County Legislator urging my colleagues to practice greater fiscal restraint and to make more prudent financial decisions in anticipation of an inevitable economic downturn. By in large my fellow Legislators have ignored my words, as evidenced by their approval of half a billion dollars in increases for police and other county unions over the course of the past year alone.
Now, even as local individuals and businesses struggle, and thousands of Suffolk County residents are poised to lose their jobs as a result of the mandated closures associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the Suffolk County Legislature voted this past week to provide raises to yet another county bargaining unit totaling $15 million through 2024. This, despite the fact that the county’s budget is slipping further into the red with each passing day as sales tax revenues continue to plummet, potentially creating a budget shortfall in the hundreds of millions of dollars for 2021.
During this state of emergency our government officials have been urging all of us to prioritize, be responsible, sacrifice, conserve, etc. Tough times call for tough decisions. Does that not apply to their own actions? Suffolk County government is doing a number of things to help our residents and businesses during this crisis, but the fiscal recklessness of lawmakers can erase a lot of good. For elected officials to dole out large raises to unions who have lined their campaign coffers is always inappropriate, but doing so at a time of crisis, knowingly digging the county’s budget hole deeper, and further saddling taxpayers is the height of hypocrisy. People are hurting, and unfortunately all indications point to things getting worse before they get better. This year alone the county is scheduled to hand out tens of millions of dollars in raises to its employees, some of whom are the highest paid in the country and unlike most Americans, still have their pensions. Those funds could have afforded local government greater flexibility to serve our beleaguered residents during this time of profound need. It’s not business as usual for anyone right now and the Legislators who voted for these raises need to understand that it’s not business as usual for them either, nor should it ever have been.
Legislator 13th District