Upon taking office in 2012, Steve inherited a county government on the brink of financial catastrophe, including a $500 million deficit and $200 million annual structural budget gap that threatened the county’s fiscal solvency.
Steve believed then and believes to this day that raising property taxes on Suffolk County homeowners is not the answer for fixing mistakes made by previous administrations. Instead, Steve sought to reform county government – eliminating waste, fostering innovation, and seeking ways to become more efficient.
In short order, just as he did as Babylon Town Supervisor, Steve reduced the size of government. He eliminated over 1,100 positions, saving millions in taxpayer dollars. He also merged departments in an effort to reduce wasteful spending. Today, county government is doing more with less. Steve not only combined the Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s Offices into one, he also merged the Departments of Law and Risk Management, as well as the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs within Department of Labor.
Steve has vowed that by the time he leaves office, the county government will serve as a model for efficiency and effectiveness.
Steve believes in leading by example. Upon taking office, Steve cut his own pay and became the first employee in county history to pay into his healthcare. Steve also refused a county cell phone, car, and driver. Since taking office, Steve’s voluntary salary reductions have personally saved taxpayers over $300,000.
Steve also saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by negotiating a new healthcare contract for employees where all county employees now contribute to their healthcare costs for the first time. He has never raised County General Fund taxes on Suffolk residents and has always kept county government under the 2% state property tax cap.
Steve is leading the fight to restore our state and local tax deductions, otherwise known as SALT. He recently testified before the IRS in Washington DC on behalf of Suffolk County homeowners, voicing opposition to harmful IRS regulations. Steve has also put pressure on federal lawmakers to reverse this massive tax increase that Washington imposed on Long Island taxpayers and put forward a plan to ease this burden on our homeowners. This plan includes reducing the mortgage recording fee and promoting affordable housing eligibility for those with college loan debt.
Through productive negotiations with every county union, including the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), Steve has worked to control and decrease rising county health care costs. After becoming the first Suffolk County employee to pay into his own health care, the county will achieve $30 million in taxpayer savings each year after all county employees begin paying into their own healthcare.
Steve believes that public safety is government’s most fundamental responsibility. Under Steve’s leadership, Suffolk County has experienced the lowest crime rates in recorded history. After former Police Commissioner Tim Sini was elected as Suffolk County District Attorney last year, Steve hired Geraldine Hart, the former head of the FBI on Long Island, as Suffolk County Police Commissioner, ushering in a new age of law enforcement here in Suffolk County.
As Suffolk County Executive, Steve’s two top public safety priorities remain eradicating brutal street gangs like MS-13 from our communities and combatting the opioid epidemic.
In the first quarter of 2019, violent crime is down nearly 3.7%, marking a new historic low on top of a 14.9% reduction in 2018. Robberies are down 25%, murder and manslaughter down nearly 43%, property crime is down nearly 3% compared to this time last year, residential burglaries are down 10%, and commercial burglaries are down nearly 23% while motor vehicle thefts have dropped nearly 16%.
Steve’s two top public safety priorities remain eradicating brutal street gangs like MS-13 from our communities and combatting the opioid epidemic both of which have caused horrific damage to families and communities in our county.
Under Steve’s leadership, Suffolk County has been a statewide leader on a number of environmental issues that have a direct impact on the quality of life for residents. For the first time in decades, Steve took action to reverse the decline of our water quality by instituting landmark water quality programs that have garnered statewide and national recognition. Steve is credited for implementing the Septic Improvement Program, the first of its kind water quality program that makes it affordable for homeowners to replace their outdated septic systems and cesspools.
Plastic pollution is a serious threat to our parks, beaches, and waterways on Long Island. Earlier this year, Steve signed legislation to make Suffolk County the first county in the state to restrict the use of plastic straws, requiring food establishments to switch over to environmentally friendly and biodegradable straws, stirrers, and containers. While Americans collectively use 500 million plastic straws each day, under Steve’s leadership, Suffolk is leading the change.
Steve also took aggressive action to ban Styrofoam containers that have been polluting our parks, beaches and waterways for decades. Steve signed legislation prohibiting the use, offer and sale of disposable food service items that consist of Styrofoam, a common environmental pollutant and non-biodegradable substance which is non-recyclable.
Since taking office, Steve has been a regional leader in promoting economic growth and revitalization in Suffolk County and Long Island as a whole. He is working to make the Suffolk County a leader in 21st century innovation and an attractive, affordable place for its people to live.
His Connect Long Island vision aims to invest in an upgraded transportation system that will conveniently connect universities, research centers, and downtowns while reversing the brain drain. A key aspect of Connect Long Island is the Long Island Innovation Zone, which will create a multi-modal corridor from Stony Brook to downtown Patchogue, with bus rapid transit service along Nicolls’ Road providing access to Stony Brook University, Suffolk Community College, three Long Island Railroad stations, as well as the Ronkonkoma Hub. Connect Long Island includes the construction of innovative, mixed-use areas near transit hubs that will spur economic development and provide affordable housing. There are currently 12 transit-oriented developments around Suffolk County in the works.
The most significant of these will be the Ronkonkoma Hub. Located next to the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, the Ronkonkoma Hub will, when complete, bring 3,000 new jobs and generate $250 million annually in economic activity. The Ronkonkoma Hub will be further enhanced by the creation of a state of the art terminal for MacArthur Airport to enable easy access to both New York City and the developments around the Ronkonkoma LIRR station. Connect Long Island would also bring Suffolk County closer together by linking major centers of research and tech together via mass transit. The LIRR is currently in the midst of a major expansion, including Double Track and Third Track routes, the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit and the development of a network of hiking and biking paths throughout the county.
In 2013, Steve oversaw the creation of the Suffolk County Landbank Corp. which has since served as a model for other Landbank programs across the nation. The Suffolk County Landbank purchases zombie homes that were left in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and reviatlizes them to be sold to first time homebuyers putting them back on the tax rolls and providing relief for new and growing families. To date, the program has collected $6 million in back taxes to protect Suffolk taxpayers.
Steve has also made significant investments in supporting the growth of Suffolk County’s network of vibrant downtowns. His administration has awarded $12 million in grant funding to assist small businesses, promote economic growth and revitalize downtown areas. This has led to the continued growth and development in downtown communities such as Patchogue, Bay Shore, Riverhead, and Kings Park.