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County committee stalls bill which calls for studying a State of Long Island

05/05/2016 12:00 PM |

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The last time the issue of making Long Island a separate state was raised, the thought was parodied on The Daily Show, one of the nation’s most-watched late-night TV programs.

But that doesn’t mean the idea is going away.

A bill in the state legislature sponsored by East End state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and South Fork state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) have co-sponsored a bill that would establish a bi-county commission in Nassau and Suffolk counties to study the feasibility of establishing the state of Long Island, which would be comprised of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The bill was introduced in January in both houses of the state legislature and is currently in the local governmental subcommittees of the state senate.

However, citing budget issues, the legislative body that governs half of the proposed 51st state might not be on board.

One Wednesday, the Suffolk County legislature’s Government Operations, Personnel, Housing and Information Technology Committee for a second time tabled a resolution requesting the state to approve the bill establishing a bi-county commission to study the feasibility of a Long Island state.

The vote to table, which essentially pushes off a vote to a future meeting, was 3-2, with legislators Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue), Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) in support of the tabling, and legislators Keven McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) and William Lindsay III (D-Holbrook) opposed.

“For the years 2002-2004, Long Island paid $8.124 billion in state taxes yet only $5.2 billion was returned in direct local aid, tuition assistance, highway aid, pension payments, lottery money, metropolitan transportation authority subsidies and Medicaid payments,” the bill states.

It says the issue should be investigated, a report should be prepared and a referendum held in the two counties. It would create a 24-member commission — 12 people from each county — to submit a study by July 1, 2018 and vote on the issue that fall.

“I like the idea,” Mr. McCaffrey said afterwards.

“We can’t afford it,” Ms. Kennedy said of seceding from New York State. “Yesterday, we have a budget analysis that said we have a structural deficit of at least $184 million from 2014 to 2016. To secede from the state, we’d have to buy all the state parks. Do you know what that would cost? And we’d have to buy every state building and beach. Can we afford this right now? No.”

“We’ll work it out,” Mr. McCaffrey said.

If the county legislative committee had approved the resolution, it would then need to be voted on by the full county legislature.

North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) is a co-sponsor of the state bill.

“The bill is simply to do an independent study of the feasibility of forming a separate state,” he said.

“It wouldn’t hurt because we have such a different dynamic than the five boroughs and the rest of the state. I actually think its a pretty good idea. I’m happy to sign on, just to see what the feasibility is, to get an idea.”

The legislative intent of the bill states that Nassau and Suffolk counties, combined, are geographically larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware, and its population of 2.8 million people is larger than that of 17 states.

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