Pet Projects Abound In Albany's Budget
Just when you thought it was safe to assume that our State Legislators were actually keeping an eye on your tax dollars (and why in the world would you ever think that?), a review of New York's recently passed budget reveals plenty to squeal about.
How about $2500 for a Brooklyn cricket league? [Elmont should have at least made a pitch.] Or $15,000 for a Long Island synchronized swim team? [As if any two LIers can do the same thing at the same time!]
Maybe $98,000 for onion research at Cornell University doesn't bring tears to your eyes, but even with New York's Project Sunlight opening the books, is anyone really looking?
At a time when our State Legislature needs to be trimming the pork, so that we can spend what little money we do have wisely and effectively, it seems there's just as much bacon to go around as ever.
Then again, who's to complain about $200 million of your hard-earned money going for things like a doll and toy museum or the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing?
It is, after all, an election year!
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From the New York Post:
$$ FOR GAYS & DOLLS
By KENNETH LOVETT Post Correspondent
April 11, 2008 -- ALBANY - Among the hundreds of dubious pork-barrel projects larded into the just-completed state budget is a group devoted to quilt-making, a doll museum and a "gay day" in the Catskills, The Post has learned.
There's also cash for synchronized swimmers, rowers in Syracuse and onion research at Cornell University.
It's all part of $200 million for local pork projects that have been stuffed into the state spending plan and unearthed in a review by The Post.
The lawmakers who sought funding for each project are not identified but will be made public later in the year.
"This stuff shouldn't be funded even in a good year," complained E.J. McMahon, director of the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy.
"It's outrageous and it shows why people are upset and annoyed at government," added Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long.
Among those receiving taxpayer funds is the New York chapter of Women of Color Quilters Network, which got $5,000.
On its Web site, the organization describes itself as a nonprofit group founded in 1985 by quilt artist Carolyn Mazloomi "to foster and preserve the art of quilt-making among women of color."
Another is The Day to be Gay Foundation in Sullivan County, which according to its Web site holds an annual festival to "facilitate community cohesion and, most importantly, to raise money from the gay and lesbian community to support charities in the Catskills, Hudson Valley and Poconos regions." It received $1,000 in taxpayer largesse.
The Syracuse Chargers Rowing Club will get $150,000, the Long Island synchronized swim team $15,000, and Cornell University $98,000 for "onion research."
The Doll and Toy Museum of New York City will receive $2,500, the Big Apple Circus $30,000, and the New York City Mountain Bike Association $7,500.
Among the sports grants, the Brooklyn Cricket League will receive $2,500, Figure Skating in Harlem $3,000, and the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing $3,500.
Music groups also benefit from the new budget, including the Folk Music Society of New York ($2,000) and Jazzmobile Inc. ($3,000).
One group, with the tantalizing name of Men of Exquisite Taste, will receive $5,000. It's unclear just what the organization does.
"All the pork money is a way to buy various blocks of votes," Long said.
"There is not a core public purpose for any of the stuff we're discussing," McMahon said.
While the budget specifies where the money is going, there is no clue as to which lawmakers sponsored the projects or exactly what the funding is for, said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Knowing such things would not only shed light on the process but also help to show whether there are any conflicts of interest, he and others said.
Assembly spokesman Dan Weiller said that in the coming weeks, his house will release the complete details on the pork spending, while Senate spokesman Mark Hansen said the information will come when the money actually is paid.
Many lawmakers - and those who receive the money - defend pork spending as needed assistance for valuable organizations and projects.
But Long and McMahon question how lawmakers can set aside $200 million for pork while raising taxes and fees by $1.5 billion and increasing spending by 4.9 percent at a time when the economy is souring.
"It's not sustainable," McMahon said. "They're spending at almost twice the rate of inflation in an economy that is shrinking. The thing is running on fumes."
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Democrat, also expressed concerns about too much spending in tough economic times, warning state leaders to "keep an eraser handy."
Gov. Paterson, who took office March 17 after Eliot Spitzer resigned, said he'll seek as much as $12 billion in cuts next year.
But Long argued that the new governor should have started from scratch and sought major cuts this year.
"To say he was going to straighten it out next year when he had the power to do it this year is inexcusable," Long said.
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Hmmm. Millions for quilters, rowers, and boxers, but not one red cent for bloggers. Get us our State Legislators on the line!