Southampton Town Councilman and Republican candidate for Suffolk County Legislator Chris Nuzzi sent out a press release this week following an article in Newsday calling on incumbent legislator Jay Schneiderman to return what Nuzzi called “his taxpayer-funded pay increase that he accepted after voting with his colleagues for a pay freeze.”
“It is troubling to learn that Jay Schneiderman accepted a pay hike for himself after voting for a pay freeze, especially considering the fiscal crisis that the county has been experiencing,” said Nuzzi in the statement. “In spite of looming deficits, mass layoffs and closures of county facilities, Jay saw fit to reward himself with another pay increase. And to make things worse, he voted to support a pay freeze. This disingenuous move violates the public trust and is indicative of someone who has been representing himself in Hauppauge for too long.”
According to the Newsday article, the vote to decline a cost-of-living pay raise took place in June 2012, and Schneiderman was one of seven incumbent legislators who voted for the wage freeze.
In his release, Nuzzi also charged Schneiderman is more concerned with supporting up-Island political leadership, to the detriment of the East End.
“We have been the repository for the County’s homeless sex offender population for years, been shortchanged in sales tax revenues and now find that the county’s environmental preservation programs are out of money,” said Nuzzi in the release. “Once again, the East End is being viewed as the cash cow for Suffolk government, where our hard earned dollars now go back in to the pockets of the politicians who take pay raises as the county’s fiscal woes continue.”
On Tuesday, Schneiderman said he was dismayed the campaign had turned negative so quickly and in terms of service to the East End said he would run on his record.
“I have never taken a raise in office,” he added. “I have taken very small cost of living adjustments that are completely outside of my salary. In fact, I have deferred some of my compensation on several occasions as has our county workforce.”
Schneiderman said the bill in question would allow legislators to make voluntary cuts in pay and it was adopted by the legislature to allow them to make such cuts during labor negotiations where county workers were being asked to do the same thing. When concessions were ultimately reached, Schneiderman said the cost of living was taken off the table.
“I said I would take whatever pain and suffering was going to be felt by county employees and that it would be voluntary,” he said. “The employees made many concessions, that was not one of them.”
Schneiderman added because the legislation allowed legislatures to voluntarily cut their wages if they deemed it necessary, he felt obliged to vote for it.
“During my tenure I haven’t raised taxes, I haven’t had a salary increase,” he said. “We have had to deal with an extremely challenging situation with the county budget. We have had to cut so much, lay off county employees so we can get through this fiscal crisis. I think we are starting to see some of our decisions pay off.”
Schneiderman pointed to the fact he was able to get the sex offender trailers in Southampton moved, the creation of the county’s successful Sunday bus service, the widening of County Road 39 and his commitment to land preservation as just a few of his accomplishments during his tenure.
Nuzzi’s comment about environmental preservation funds being depleted, said Schneiderman, is true, but only because the county has leveraged that money towards millions upon millions of dollars in land preservation.
“I have been instrumental in making sure we get our fair share,” he said. “And I think we are finally getting there. I am bringing tens of millions of dollars into this district and I think for the first time we are no longer being treated like the red headed step child of Suffolk County.”