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Source: Newsday

LIers make most of Lobby Day in Albany

BY MICHAEL AMON

Posted: February 9, 2011
Originally Published: February 8, 2011

ALBANY - Save Long Island Bus. Support solar-power jobs. Invest in downtowns, sewers and jobs.

That was the message a diverse coalition of 45 interest groups - from environmentalists to business advocates to civic associations - delivered to Long Island lawmakers in the Capitol yesterday.

"Here we are and here we come. We've come to bring our message from Long Island to the halls of Albany," said Adrienne Esposito, head of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

It was the third annual Long Island Lobby Day, scheduled on a traditionally busy day for interest groups who packed the Capitol Tuesday. Last year, the Long Island coalition said its efforts helped pass a downtown development bill, and legislation protecting schools from pesticides.

Trudging together from meeting to meeting, the group laid out a five-point plan for Nassau and Suffolk and emphasized they were not, in most cases, asking for more money.

Business groups such as the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce wanted tax credits for companies that make new hires. Advocates for dense development called for steering federal funds to five sewer projects, with one in Mastic and Shirley, Bay Park, Bergen Point, Smithtown and Northport.

Environmentalists called for new legislation requiring more solar power in the state, saying it would create 22,000 "green jobs."

But Long Island Bus, the item that got the most attention, might need state money. Nassau, which owns Long Island Bus but had its finances taken over by a state financial watchdog group, says it cannot pay $26 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to run the system.

The MTA has threatened to shut down bus service, while Nassau has floated proposals to privatize it.

"We can't afford to lose Nassau's bus service," said Roger Clayman, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, which represents 250,000 union members.

All nine members of the Republican Long Island Senate delegation met the group in the Senate's ornate conference room. They were noncommital about helping in a year when the state faces a $10-billion budget gap.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the millions of dollars the state had contributed to Long Island Bus in the past may not materialize this year.

"The state does not have money," Skelos said. "This is a local responsibility, and the MTA says this is what they [Nassau] have to pay."

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who met the coalition yesterday, said he would talk today to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo about Long Island Bus after the governor speaks at Hofstra University.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Nassau Executive Edward Mangano, said the county was "hopeful" negotiations would produce a settlement between the county and MTA.