Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let's See. NYS Deficit: $13 Billion

Federal Stimulus $$$ To New York: $25 Billion. Problem Solved?

In theory, the deficit in Albany -- and any foreseen shortfall for next year -- should be erased. Health cuts restored. Scholl funding secured. Tax hikes shelved. Everybody goes home happy. Right?

Well, not exactly.

Like almost all federal spending, the approximately $25 billion that should come New York's way is, for the most part, specifically earmarked.

Yes. Education. Yes. Health care. Yes. Infrastructure.

Upstate New York will get a fair share (some say more than fair). Exactly what stimulus money will flow to Long Island remains to be seen.

Then there are those special projects. You know, the pork.

There are approximately $7.7 billion in disclosed earmarks for various politicians' pet projects; 230 of those earmarks have New York pols' names attached. Locally, these include $381,000 for music education programs at Jazz at Lincoln Center, $277 million for the Second Avenue subway, and $210 million to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central. Watchdog groups argue that many of these special projects—such as $950,000 for a pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie (a bridge in nowhere?)—win funding based on each politicians' power, not because of the projects' merits.

The feds promise transparency and accountability. Indeed, they've set up a recovery website so we, the people, can see exactly where every stimulus dollar goes and is being spent. New York has put out an online guide, offers updates by e-mail or snail mail, and even welcomes your ideas for how the stimulus money should be spent.

Click HERE for a preliminary breakdown of where the stimulus dollars will be directed in New York. Then, watch the pot on a regular basis.

It is, after all, your money!

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