Hauppauge, NY (March 27, 2015) - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone delivered his fourth State of the County address this evening at the William H. Rodgers Legislative Building in Hauppauge.During his address, Bellone highlighted his administration’s progress on a region-wide transportation and economic development plan called ‘Connect Long Island.’
Bellone also addressed Suffolk County’s government reform efforts through merging departments, streamlining operations and cutting wasteful spending as well as his administration’s successes in water quality, combatting substance abuse, enhancing veteran services and double digit reductions in county wide crime.
“I believe in keeping the commitments I have made to the taxpayers of Suffolk County,” said County Executive Bellone. “I declared when I came into office that despite our enormous fiscal challenges, I would not propose nor would I accept a budget that pierced Governor Cuomo’s property tax cap.”
Bellone continued, “I am proud to say that working with this legislature that we have delivered three consecutive balanced budgets that have frozen the County General Fund Tax and kept all County taxes under the tax cap. The foundation of a prosperous future for our region is rooted in an effective, efficient government.”
Bellone highlighted as part of his government reform initiative, the County has reduced the size of government by more than 10% over a span of three years, saving Suffolk County residents more than $100 million per year in salaries and benefits.
Bellone commended the Suffolk County Legislature and the public for passing a resolution and referendum last year that will merge the offices of the County Comptroller and Treasurer in 2018 – saving the County more than $500,000 a year.
In addition, County Executive Bellone announced Suffolk County has saved taxpayers over $300 million by driving down crime, reducing recidivism, investing in smarter policies and by working with the New York State Commission of Corrections to lift the decade-old mandate requiring Suffolk County to build a third jail.
Bellone spent the majority of his speech presenting his ‘Connect Long Island’ plan, a comprehensive multi-pronged region-wide transportation and economic development plan designed to address the regions underlying systemic problems facing Long Island, most notably “the brain drain.”
“Connect Long Island is intended to address what I consider the fundamental challenge of our time, how do we reverse the decades long trend of young people leaving our region at rates higher than any other region in the nation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “We cannot reach our economic potential, we cannot build a prosperous future if we are not a region that can attract the high knowledge, high skill workers necessary to build an innovation economy.”
‘Connect Long Island’ is moving forward in every corner of Suffolk County, including transit-oriented developments in the following communities: Ronkonkoma, Huntington Station, East Farmingdale, Patchogue, Wyandanch, Riverhead and Heartland in Brentwood.
County Executive Bellone’s ‘Connect Long Island’ plan seeks to connect all of Suffolk County’s world-class assets in one comprehensive quality of life ecosystem. Through smart planning and fostered relationships between the County, towns and villages, the plan connects downtowns and new transit oriented development efforts with job centers, universities, research centers, and parks and recreational facilities through a modern, reliable user-friendly public transportation.
The plan additionally calls for a 21st century upgrade and enhancement to existing public transportation infrastructure. The plan will provide faster more reliable east-west transportation while connecting the County with new state of the art north-south connections. By constructing a second Long Island Rail Road track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, building an innovative bus rapid transit system on three key north-to-south corridors and expanding electrification of the Long Island Rail Road east, Suffolk County would finally have a dependable public transportation system capable of supporting an innovation economy.
The initiative comes on the heels of the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor jobs report that Suffolk County’s unemployment rate has nearly dropped in half during the Bellone administration. It currently sits below the national average at 4.8%, down from 8.2% in 2011.
“As we are focused on this region-wide development plan, it is important to maintain our focus on water quality,” said Bellone. “The quality of our drinking water, our bays, our beaches and our ocean fronts are intrinsically linked to the potential economic success of our region.”
On the one year anniversary of the County’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which was introduced at last year’s State of the County address, Bellone discussed the successes of the initiative and the County’s future plans. Reclaim Our Water focuses on addressing the region’s growing nitrogen pollution crisis that has eliminated the region’s once-renowned shell fishing industry, effected water dependent economies and tourism, is systematically undermining Long Island’s surface, ground and drinking water supply, and threatens our region’s future growth potential.
Within the last year, County Executive Bellone has worked with federal and state officials to secure $383 million for clean water infrastructure –
the largest single investment in water quality into Suffolk County in a generation.
In addition, Suffolk County launched an innovative pilot program to bring advanced on-site wastewater treatment systems directly to single-family homeowners, and has completed more than $61 million in capital improvements at sewer treatment facilities throughout the County.
The 2015 State of the County speech also discussed enhancing veteran services throughout the County, including securing $29 million in veteran benefits in 2014. County Executive Bellone highlighted Suffolk County’s Inaugural Marathon and Half-Marathon that will take place on Sunday, September 13, 2015 with all net proceeds will directly benefit veteran services throughout the County.
For a complete transcript and more details on the 2015 State of the County, visit www.facebook.com/stevebellone or www.suffolkcountyny.gov.