ALBANY – They just don’t get it!

That was the reaction from government watchdogs on Thursday after the Daily News reported that state lawmakers will still get their pork-barrel projects despite budget cuts.

“It’s really cynical of them to treat their pork-barrel spending in a business as usual way,” said E.J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for Public Policy. “They should eliminate virtually all of that. They won’t be getting real until they do that.”

A $50 million cut in legislative member items, otherwise known as pork, was included in a $427 million package of spending reductions approved Wednesday by lawmakers and Gov. Paterson.

The News reported Thursday that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has quietly assured his members there was enough money in the budget to fund their election-year projects.

“This is the guy who wants to raise taxes in part because he doesn’t want to cut his pork barrel,” McMahon said, referring to Silver’s support for a so-called millionaire’s tax.

“It’s clear that they have their own self-promotional interest at heart and not the taxpayers,” state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said.

One legislative source said the Assembly’s Democratic majority has $147.9 million in surplus member item money tucked away. Republicans have $1.1 million.

In the Senate, the ruling GOP majority has $62.5 million in surplus member item money, while Senate Democrats have $273,851.

“We have more than enough money in that account to fulfill the obligations of this year,” said Senate spokesman Scott Reif.

The surplus builds because it can take up to two years for projects to get paid out. In other cases, community groups that are allocated money never claim it.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in April estimated that up to 40%, or 2,700, of the grants allocated in 2006-07 went unclaimed.

And then there are millions of dollars that were set aside in the budget, but never allocated for any specific project.

“It’s disturbing that there are slush funds that can be allocated for any purpose,” said Elizabeth Lynam, of the Citizens Budget Commission.

The News learned Thursday that the $50 million wasn’t even cut from the state budget, but simply transferred to the general fund. Gov. Paterson had proposed $100 million in member item cuts.

Meanwhile, the Paterson administration on Thursday revealed the agency-by-agency impact of a $630 million spending cut he ordered on July 30. Prisons took the biggest cut at $168 million.

Read article here

You may also like

State’s Growing Budget Hole Threatens NYC Jobs and Aid as Congress Takes a Holiday

“The biggest problem for the state is the enormous, recurring structural budget gap starting next year and into the future,” said E.J. McMahon of the conservative-leaning Empire Center. “Cuomo clearly hopes that starting in 2021, (Democratic presidential candidate Joseph) Biden and a Democratic Congress will provide states and local government a couple of year’s worth of added stimulus. Read More

How Andrew Cuomo became ‘maybe the most powerful governor’ in U.S.

Ed McKinley ALBANY — When the New York Constitution was reorganized nearly 100 years ago to give the governor more power over the budget process,  noted there was a risk of making “the governor a czar." M Read More

Study disputes Cuomo on Trump tax package; experts say it’s complicated

Michael Gormley ALBANY — A new study by a conservative think tank says President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law gave most New Yorkers a tax cut, even as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo insists on repealing the measure because he says it will cost New Yo Read More

Empire Center sues Department of Health over nursing home records

Johan Sheridan ALBANY, N.Y. () — The Empire Center filed a  against the state Department of Health on Friday. “This case isn’t about assigning blame or embarrassing political leaders,” said Bill Hammond, the Empire Center’s Read More

Good news: That New York pork isn’t going out the door after all

The Empire Center first reported Tuesday that grants — 226 of them, totaling $46 million, to recipients selected by the governor and individual state lawmakers — seemed to still be going ahead. Read More

New York Lawmakers Seek Independent Probe of Nursing-Home Coronavirus Deaths

With lingering questions about how the novel coronavirus killed thousands of New Yorkers who lived in nursing homes, a group of state lawmakers is pushing to create an independent commission to get answers from the state Department of Health. Read More

Policy analyst: Cuomo wrong to write-off nursing home criticism as political conspiracy

“The importance of discussing this and getting the true facts out is to understand what did and didn’t happen so we can learn from it in case this happens again,” Hammond said. Read More

EDITORIAL: Nursing home report requires a second opinion

No doubt, the Health Department and the governor would like this report to be the final word on the subject. But if it’s all the same with them, we’d still like a truly independent review. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.