Albany's Pork Handouts

José M. Serrano

July 29, 2010

The New York Times

Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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It pays to live in the home district of the New York Legislature’s big shots. According to a new analysis by several citizens’ groups, Senate and Assembly leaders grabbed much bigger chunks of political pork than lesser members did. This is yet another in a long list of reasons to oppose member items, as pork is known in Albany.

Altogether, legislative member items amount to about $170 million a year. If the dollars were distributed equally, Assembly districts would average about $300,000, and Senate districts would get an average of $1.2 million.

Two Democrats are fighting to make these bonuses fair. Assemblywoman Sandra Galef of Ossining (who has never taken member items) and Senator José Serrano of the Bronx (who got $1 million last year) have proposed a bill to ensure that each district would earn the same amount, ban conflicts of interest and impose better monitoring on groups that get the money.

That would be an improvement, but it would be best to cancel these lump sums in the budget altogether. These expenditures should appear the normal way in the budget, line by line.