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April 3, 2013

State budget far from perfect

The Daily Star

---- — The state Legislature, in conjunction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has passed its third consecutive on-time budget. By all the crowing about it from members of both parties, one might surmise that they expect us to throw them a parade.

For doing their jobs.

If we look at some aspects of this $135.1 billion budget, we might prefer to see members of the state Assembly and Senate ridden out of town on a rail rather than waving to us from a parade float.

For instance, how does the state reconcile a $90 million cut in spending on programs for the developmentally disadvantaged when taxpayers are shelling out $54 million to the Buffalo Bills football team so it can renovate Ralph Wilson stadium?

Forbes magazine says the franchise takes in $240 million a year and is worth $805 million. But don’t fret, in return for this largesse and the promise not to move the franchise for seven years, Empire State Development gets a 12-seat luxury suite it can use during each home game.

Back in 2009, the state did away with what are called “member items.” These were funds doled out to legislators who would then dole the money out to worthy causes in their communities. The effect was that the member of the Assembly or Senate would appear to be Santa Claus, replete with a press release and a smiling photo with an outsized check.

The member items were quite accurately called “incumbent re-election funds,” and it’s a good thing that they’re gone. But an analysis of the budget by the Albany Times Union found about $28.7 million in funding for what Assembly Ways & Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell called “old member items that are alive still.”

The governor is said to be looking over each item to see which ones he might want to veto, but his hands aren’t exactly clean, either.

Cuomo created “economic development councils” in 2011. These councils are to receive $220 million in this year’s budget.

“The governor has scooped ... up [member items] and put it in his little economic development councils …,” Democratic Sen. Kevin Parker of Brooklyn told the New York Post.

So, instead of your local representative, Gov. Cuomo gets to play Tooth Fairy. But it gets worse.

Next year, we’ll all be getting a share of $350 million in tax rebates. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with taxpayers getting some cash back, but do we really think it’s a coincidence that this generosity isn’t designed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy in an election year?

A parade? Send in the clowns … or as the song said, don’t bother, they’re here.