After two terms at the helm of Suffolk County’s 13th District, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) remains extremely critical of how the county functions — specifically its handling of finances.
The Republican incumbent has called the current system “broken,” “totally corrupt” and “horrible.” If re-elected Nov. 7, he said he plans to keep fighting to control spending and shed light on government mismanagement.
“I don’t want to see people struggling — I want this to be a prosperous place but it’s not a good situation we’re in,” Trotta said in a discussion at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, with the editorial staff Sept. 22.
He talked about his plans moving forward as the representative of his district, which encompasses Smithtown, Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Nissequogue, St. James, Head of the Harbor and portions of Commack and East Northport.
First elected in 2013, he is running for another two years as legislator against Democratic challenger Colleen Maher, who did not respond to a request for an interview.
Trotta said the legislative bills that he’s passionate about pushing through will ultimately “die in committee.” They include a law to limit Suffolk County “backdoor taxes,” or fee permits and registrations imposed on residents, to 2 percent per year — a reflection of the state’s cap for property tax increases — in order to make living on Long Island cheaper for residents; one that imposes justification for a fee increase; and a campaign finance bill to limit the amount of money in donations elected officials running for office can accept from contractors and public employee unions within the county.
Trotta said the campaign finance bill is the most crucial one because it will serve to clean up the “cesspool” of county government and curb money being tossed around in campaign contributions.
“Campaign finance is the root of all evil,” the legislator said.
A member of the Suffolk County Police Department for 25 years, Trotta pointed to County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) 28.8 percent pay increase to the police department as a prime example of the county’s “out-of-control” spending.
“We’re in debt, we have to cut spending,” he said. “I see the county budget as a pie. Cops came in and ate everything and left the crumbs for everybody else. Why would you give them a $400 million increase? It’s because they gave him $3 million to get elected.”
“I don’t want to see people struggling — I want this to be a prosperous place but it’s not a good situation we’re in.”
— Rob Trotta
Trotta overall outlined a grim portrait of the future of the county, especially for young people looking to stay and start families here.
“If it wasn’t for Manhattan, we’d be dead — we’d be finished,” the legislator said. “I want young people to be able to buy houses here but … a third of the people in their 20s are moving. People always say, ‘Oh the beaches.’ How many times in the last year were you at the beach? Apartment buildings popping up are a last resort.”
He also spoke out against the county’s Red Light Safety Program, which he has long advocated against, chalking the system of cameras at traffic signals to ticket cars that run red lights up to a “money grab” by the county against residents that’s only causing more damage along busy intersections.
The day before the debate Oct. 17, Trotta publicly called for an investigation into the county’s annual report of the program, accusing it of purposefully, and illegally, eliminating data on car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
“Cameras are at 100 locations and accidents are up at about 46 of them, some as much as 100 percent,” he said. “Now, if it’s about safety, wouldn’t you shut those cameras down immediately? It’s not about safety. It’s about money … it’s not a happy place to live.”
The legislature approved hiring an outside contractor to perform a six-month study of the county’s red-light camera program at its Oct. 2 meeting.