Nuzzi, a Republican Southampton Town Councilman and East Hampton native, is challenging Legis. Jay Schneiderman, I-Montauk, who represents the second legislative district, extending from Montauk to East Moriches.
Both men hail from the Town of East Hampton; Nuzzi from East Hampton and Schneiderman from Montauk. Nuzzi is finishing his second term on the Southampton Town Board, first taking office in 2006. Schneiderman, who previously served as East Hampton Town Supervisor and turned down the Republican nomination to run for the seat this year, has been a legislator for 10 years.
Asked by David Rattray, editor of The East Hampton Star, if the South Fork gets its "fair share" from the county, Nuzzi said, "What we deliver versus what we get back is not as much." Particularly when it comes to public safety — the East End relies on its own town and village police departments and not the county police like the rest of Suffolk County — he said he would fight for more.
"My opponent works in or caucuses with the majority. He's the 13th vote," Nuzzi said of Schneiderman, referencing to his close relationship with Democrat Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. "But we haven't seen anything over the last several years that equates to any great increases," he said.
"You know I've delivered for the last 10 years," said Schneiderman, who is seeking his sixth and final term in office due to term limits.
He rattled off a list of county projects and funding — $3.5 million more in sales tax revenue for East End police departments, $20 million to widen County Road 39 in Southampton, dredging of Three Mile Harbor, Accabonac Harbor and Northwest Creek, $3 million in the restoration of Third House in Montauk, grants for Guild Hall and the Hamptons International Film Festival, and funding for a pool at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Riverhead.
Nuzzi said he wasn't impressed. The $3.5 million does not cover the amount generated in sales tax from the East End, he said. Of the dredging projects, he said, "That's the point of Suffolk County government. They are supposed to invest and reinvest in our infrastructure. I don't consider that being a gift on the part of Suffolk County."
According to Schneiderman, the additional $3.5 million for East End police departments brings the total up to $7 million. "Ten percent of the population, 10 percent of the population, 10 percent of the money. When I got in, it was 5 percent."
Nuzzi pointed to the county's finances often. "Finances are now in such bad shape that the Comptroller named Suffolk County one of the most fiscally stressed," he said.
"The county went through a difficult period, no doubt," Schneiderman said. "We lost $100 million in sales tax revenue," and the county responded with a "drastic, draconian action" in reducing the work force by 20 percent, selling the Foley nursing home, among other measures.
Things are looking up, he said. Sales tax has grown roughly 7 percent in the last two years. The county is now generating $30 million a year for the general fund from red light cameras, primarily located in western Suffolk, and thousands of video lottery terminals recently approved for 2014 are expected to bring in $20 million in revenue by 2015.
"The current county deficit is not the $180 million my opponent spoke of. We closed 2013 with a deficit in the general fund of about $8 million, $4 million in the police fund," he said. "We hope to close 2014 with a zero deficit.
"it's easy to throw stones," Schneiderman said. "There are questions about the financial management of the Town of Southampton, too."
Schneiderman touted legislation he sponsored that passed the legislature earlier this month, requiring Suffolk County Vector Control to aggressively address the increase in cases of tick-borne disease, like Lyme disease. He said it makes more sense for the county to organize an attack from a regional perspective than leave it up to smaller municipalities to attack town by town.
"I don't know why it took 10 years — it's been a long discussed issue," Nuzzi said. He said he agreed the problem should be looked at regionally.
In closing, Nuzzi said, "I would ask: Are we better off in Suffolk County government today than we were 10 years ago? I don’t think we are."
"I’m running on my record," Schneiderman said, adding he is endorsed by several groups and big names in local politics including East Hampton Town Supervisor candidate Larry Cantwell, who is running on Democratic and Independence lines, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, an Independence Party member, and former Republican State Assemblyman John Behan, of Montauk.