EDITORIAL: Pork fund a waste of taxpayer money

| Daily Gazette

New York is giving pigs a bad name and giving taxpayers a bad time.

One of the reasons why New Yorkers pay so much in taxes compared with citizens of other states, and one of the reasons cited for so many New Yorkers moving to other states, is wasteful spending that leads to higher taxes.

The Empire Center for Public Policy earlier this week came out with its regular update on how much New York state government spends on local projects that have little to do with state needs like infrastructure and social programs and more to do with helping local state legislators get re-elected.

The spending report found that New York lawmakers and the governor last year allotted more than 500 million taxpayer dollars in discretionary spending, better known as “pork.” (Sorry, pigs.)

And indications are that lawmakers plan to slip more of this kind of spending onto our tax bills before they leave Albany for the summer later this month.

According to the Empire Center, these projects are those that should be funded by local governments and nonprofits — projects such as roller rinks, electronic scoreboards, skate parks and equipment for regional snowmobile clubs, as well as some relative needs such as highway barns and salt sheds.

While our state tax dollars are going to fund bike trails and cultural centers, aging and broken sewer systems are overflowing and dumping pollution into local streams and rivers.

It’s nice for some community to have a dog park or for a local police department to have a spruced-up locker room. But wouldn’t it be better for all of us in New York if we had less bumpy roads to drive on and safer bridges to cross?

Much of the money in this particular pool of pork is funded through the State and Municipal Facilities Program. This government slush fund gives legislative leaders and the governor access to nearly $2 billion in discretionary spending to basically allocate to whatever lawmakers’ districts they want. Eligibility requirements are virtually non-existent, other than having to comply with state law, according to the Empire Center.

Doling out pork to favored politicians to help them show their constituents that they’re “bringing home the bacon” (sorry, again) is a great way to impress voters and to keep incumbents in power.

But voters might be more impressed and better served by state legislators who steer their tax money to necessities and who attempt to lower their overall tax burden, not increase it.

This practice has gone on since the beginning of time and will continue as long as politicians can get away with it.

If we don’t squeal about it, we’re never going to see the pork chopped.

Again, really, really sorry, pigs.

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