Assemblywoman Sandy Galef renewed her call for the New York Legislature to permanently eliminate all member items from future state budgets in light of recent accusations over misuse of taxpayer funded member items, also know as legislative pork. Galef’s legislation, A6215-A, has been introduced annually since 2010 to eliminate member items in the budget, and no new member items have been included in recent budgets.
“I have never accepted member items because of the lack of fairness and transparency in how they are distributed. Given the recent controversies and accusations over the illegal use of member item funds, now is the time to permanently do away with this system that lacks oversight and fairness,” said Galef.
Alternatively, Galef has introduced legislation, A855, which would enact a series of changes to how member items are distributed. Although member items have not been included in the past three New York State budgets, Galef feels that now is the time to change the system if member items will again be distributed in the future.
Galef’s legislation contains many criteria by which the member item system would be reformed. The proposal includes that:
- Member items would be fairly distributed to each member of each legislative house;
- No member item would be distributed when a conflict of interest exists between the legislator or the governor designating the member item and the potential recipient;
- Each legislator or governor would be required to sign a conflict of interest form under perjury of law;
- State agencies providing funding for member items would have to evaluate the spending by the recipient to ensure that the money is used for its intended purpose;
- Recipients of a member item totaling $50,000 or more would have to file a final report with the New York State Attorney General stating what the money was used for;
- All member items should be listed separate and apart from the entire state budget to allow each member item to be individually scrutinized.
Many legislators and legislative staff have faced criminal charges in connection with member items in the recent past. Galef’s bills would minimize the possibility of this happening in the future.
“Misused member items waste taxpayer dollars and create doubt of the entire system. I believe that member items should be permanently eliminated from the New York State budget. If that does not have the support it needs to pass, I think that common sense reforms would greatly improve the system to make certain greater protections are in place to stop legislators from giving member items to groups they are connected to and to ensure recipients will not abuse these funds,” concluded Galef.