Recently the federal government increased the “per diem” reimbursements for state lawmakers to travel to and from Albany. I already announced that I would not be accepting this increase. During these times, it is outrageous to add to taxpayers’ burden; today, I am announcing that I will not accept any reimbursements for this week’s trip to Albany for extraordinary session. Nothing was accomplished and, in fact, the $100,000 expended to bring lawmakers back actually adds to the budget deficit.
While $100,000 may not seem like much to some lawmakers from other areas of our state, I know plenty of Western New Yorkers who would be thrilled to have that money, even a small part of that money, back in their pockets. Homeowners who lost their STAR Rebate Check this year would rather have their rebate checks than to throw it away on a useless trip to Albany. Residents would rather see the two percent utility tax repealed than wasted on bringing lawmakers back when there was no agreement on the table.
To compound my frustration, when I arrived in Albany earlier this week, I was shocked to see that outside the State Capitol they have put down new sod. Not seeds, not seeding spray. It is humiliating that with Western New Yorkers at home selling the farm, moving out of state, making every sacrifice to pay their bills, sod is deemed an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.
Sod, hotels and fancy dinners might be Albany’s idea of “cutting back” during these times, but it is certainly not mine. It is certainly not any Western New Yorkers idea of “making sacrifices.” I am calling on the Governor and legislative leaders to get their priorities straight, put together a plan, and be ready to do business when we return for yet another expensive trip to Albany next week. If they need suggestions on where to start cutting, I’d suggest the state downsize from sod to seed.