This is the way the system works in New York.
To get re-elected, New York lawmakers have to show voters they did something for their districts.
While we applaud the efforts that local Assemblyman Dan Stec has made in trying to get the pensions of crooked politicians revoked, his efforts look increasingly like they will fail. And often, good effort is not enough to get one re-elected.
The reality is that we can’t think of any game-changing legislation any of our elected officials has been able to get through the Legislature. That is not unusual. If you are in the minority, like Stec is in the Assembly, you don’t get many chances to actually make laws.
Even if you are in the majority, like Carrie Woerner is in the Assembly and Betty Little and Kathy Marchione are in the Senate, it is still the leadership that often calls the shots and gets most of the credit.
So when the three men in a room were crafting the budget earlier this year — without the input of almost all the other legislators — it included a $1.1 billion slush fund for lawmakers to divvy up for important community projects.
After all, it is very important to get re-elected.
The $1.1 billion is up from $746 million the year before, yet no one in state government has said why there was such a hefty increase.
Whether you call them earmarks, or grants, the reality is that it is pork, and it is there to help those in power stay in power. What is especially sad is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended the practice when he first became governor, but now it is back.
We’ve regularly condemned the practice, preferring these community projects be vetted for their importance.
Twice this past week, we reported on monies coming into the local community.
Sen. Elizabeth Little secured a $100,000 grant to help clear a trail along Halfway Brook.
Another $1.3 million is earmarked for the Batten Kill Railroad so it can put new cross ties on about four miles of company tracks around the village of Cambridge. The money will allow the railroad to continue doing business with two major Washington County agricultural businesses in Salem.
We’re sure the recipients of both projects could attest to the need in their communities, but we really don’t know for sure.
And even if they are deserving, we have no way of knowing if $100,000 to build a trail or $1.3 million to replace cross ties over four miles of railroad track is a good bang for our bucks. It sounds kind of pricey to us.
We also read this week that 20 airports around the state will be receiving $10 million in state funding, including $1 million for the Elmira Corning Regional Airport, an airport that is obviously not a hub any of us will soon visit. We’ve written about that before.
The Empire Center, a fiscally conservative independent nonprofit, non-partisan think tank, released more information about the pork projects. There are hundreds of them.
Some of the projects the Empire Center highlighted included:
- $300,000 for skateboard parks in Albany, Newburgh and Nyack
- $247,000 for dog parks in Stony Point, Haverstraw and Henrietta
- $50,000 to relocate the Ernie Davis statue in Elmira
- $50,000 for “an outdoor signage” for the Livingston Pumper Company No. 1 volunteer fire company in Columbia County.
- $1.5 million for the “edible academy” at the New York Botanical Gardens.
These grants come in all denominations, some as small as a couple thousand dollars.
But lawmakers get to present a check, get their photo taken and prove they are hard at work for their constituents, spending our tax money.
We might feel a little better if the Legislature had an effective ethics policy in place.
But that would be asking too much.
© 2016 The Post-Star