Bellone addresses budget woes in State of the County

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BRENTWOOD -

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivered his sixth State of the County address to a crowd of 300 officials and community members Wednesday night in Brentwood.

"The state of Suffolk County is strong," Bellone said, while also maintaining that the county's financial underpinnings could be much stronger. Without specifically mentioning Suffolk's budget deficit, which is approaching $200 million, Bellone said the county faces challenges in achieving long-term financial stability.

One way to stop the financial bleeding, Bellone said, is to get the blighted Brownfield properties and so-called zombies homes that have been off the tax rolls back into productive use and generating revenues. Bellone said the county is solving the problem with the establishment of the Suffolk County Land Bank.

"We've created a mechanism to return these properties to the tax rolls and create new development opportunities with cleanups funded by developers," he said.

The executive also spoke about improving government efficiency and protecting Long Island's water.

But the most memorable moment of the evening came when a standing ovation was given for the mother of a teenage victim of gang violence. Bellone took a moment to pay tribute to Evelyn Rodriguez, whose 16-year-old daughter, Kayla, was killed along with a friend in September in Brentwood, allegedly by MS-13 gang members. Bellone then reiterated the county's commitment to eradicating the gang.

In the Republican response, Legislator Kevin McCaffrey said the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the county executive caused the current fiscal mess. He called on the Democratic majority to stop overspending and stop fees such as the proposed ticket surcharge.

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