“At the leaders’ meeting last November, when the Governor asked for recommendations to balance the budget, I suggested that we eliminate the politically controlled member-item process,” said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady/Saratoga). “I recommended that we establish a more open and transparent system to fund community needs. With that in mind and a $15 billion deficit looming, I decided not to accept member-item funding for 2009. Reform is needed now.”
Tedisco recently drafted legislation that, if enacted, would overhaul the member-item process so that it is no longer politically driven. His “Community Needs Integrity” plan calls for:
- The fair distribution of dollars to all legislators, minority and majority, and regions of the state;
- Monies to be awarded based upon the need and merit of the programs seeking funding;
- Detailed, transparent, public line-itemed references to all community need projects in the state budget so that it is clear where the money is going and which legislator requested it;
- Tougher sanctions for those who inappropriately allocate funds along with expedited means to recoup illegally disbursed funds;
- An ongoing review of all member-item funds by an independent blue ribbon commission, called the Community Needs Review Commission, who would work with the Attorney General and Comptroller on evaluating project requests and their transparency; and
- Publicly posting requests at least two weeks prior to the April 1st budget deadline and requiring final project funding decisions be made public within one week after budget passage.
“It’s disgusting that majority parties get the lion’s share of these funds, which absolutely pale in comparison to minority funding. Before the recent coup, the Senate Majority was expected to get $77 million of the $85 million allocated for that legislative house despite only holding the majority by 2 seats; the disparity in the Assembly is even worse,” said Tedisco. “We cannot allow members of the Legislature to hijack our government and hold it hostage for millions of taxpayer dollars. A good place to start is with the inequity and lack of transparency in the member-item process,” added Tedisco.
“If state government cannot, or will not, change this process so that it is open, fair and transparent, it should be completely eliminated and the money should be given back, in the form of tax cuts. Reforming the member-item process is a good first step in reforming how New York spends taxpayer dollars,” concluded Tedisco.