East Fishkill, NY - New York State Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I - East Fishkill) announced he will not be participating in the new pork barrel spending deal reached between the Assembly Majority and Minority. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has agreed to allow the Assembly Minority to receive pork, known officially as "district allocations," totaling $25,000 per member and a "district capital allocation" of $100,000 per member. The total expenditure for the Assembly Minority to participate in pork barrel spending is about $5 million per two-year term.
"Whether you call them member items, earmarks, pork or district allocations, they always lead to corruption, waste and the perpetuation of a broken system of uncontrollable spending that leads to higher taxes, fewer job opportunities, and a mass exodus of ambitious and productive New Yorkers to other states," said Lalor. "Scandal after scandal in Albany is centered on pork. Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos, Vincent Liebell, Malcom Smith and others all abused this type of legislative slush fund," said Lalor.
"I promised constituents I would never accept pork. I'm going to keep that promise and will also keep my promise to fight unnecessary spending that leads to high taxes," Lalor said.
"All spending should go through the legislative process, which requires passage by both houses and the governor's signature. Pork erodes checks and balances and enables backroom deals and favor-swapping. There are many deserving projects to be funded, but they should be funded in an open and transparent system, where the funds are not controlled by a single legislator."
Lalor continued, "Lets face it, lawmakers will spend this money in a manner that is designed to generate the biggest electoral bang for the taxpayers buck. It is a very expensive, albeit indirect, form of taxpayer-funded political campaigns, which I thought the Minority opposed. This program will temporarily dull a tiny bit of the pain caused by New Yorks fiscal problems for a few hand-picked institutions, but the increased spending and willingness to abandon the bedrock Minority principle of fiscal responsibility will only exacerbate our states problems."
Lalor insisted the Minority caucus in the Assembly consists of good and decent people, but recognizes that history teaches us some lawmakers will eventually abuse this process. Lalor also pointed out that accepting district allocations from the Speaker strengthens the power of the Speaker. That was noted because the Assembly Majority Conference is dominated by the New York City metro area, and this pork deal further strengthens downstate over upstate.
Lalor asked rhetorically, "If a big part of a lawmaker's reelection campaign is bringing home the bacon, as will become the case in many instances, is the lawmaker going to stand up to the Speaker on an important issue and risk a term without any pork to spread around? In many cases, accepting pork from the Speaker will make lawmakers more docile. A few million taxpayer dollars to keep the Minority caucus quieter and more compliant is a small price for the Speaker to pay. In fact, the Speaker doesnt pay a price. The long-suffering New York taxpayer will foot the bill."
Lalor discounted the typical defenses of pork barrel spending: Constituents dont buy the old canard that we need to bring home a few pennies of the millions and millions of local dollars we send to Albany. They want us to fight to reduce the tax dollars they are forced to send to Albany in the first place. Constituents also see right through the feckless excuse that if the Minority doesnt spend this money the Majority will. Constituents send the Minority to Albany to fight wasteful spending, not participate in it. He also rejected the argument that a few million additional dollars spent per year in a budget of $135 billion is insignificant, asking: If we cant even reduce pork barrel spending, how can we tell constituents with a straight face that we are fighting to reduce the bloated state budget?
"I hope many of my colleagues will join me in declining to accept this pork. It's often wasteful spending. It empowers the crooks in Albany. And it gives cover for those who abuse pork right now. I also encourage my colleagues to join me in a push for alternative proposals to enhance the ability of the Minority Conference to represent our constituencies and save our state," Lalor said.
He continued, "If the leaders of the Assembly Minority Conference can receive a gesture of goodwill from new Speaker Carl Heastie after years of hyper-partisanship on the part of his predecessor, they should have asked for Heastie to discontinue the practice of pork perpetrated by his Majority members. Meaningful mandate relief on local governments, which would ease the property tax burden, also should be a top priority. These are the pro-taxpayer positions and the conservative positions that the Minority Conference should stand for."
"We also should push for reforms that allow the Minority Conference to get a full house vote on a certain number of bills per year. The ability of the Assembly Speaker to single-handedly block legislation leads to corruption. Big donors and special interest groups often have a huge interest in legislation never making it to the floor for a vote. Reforms that guarantee at least some meaningful Minority bills get to the floor for a vote not only improve the Minoritys ability to legislate and represent our districts, it will be a significant check on corruption."
"Our state is dying because we have a spending problem. Bringing home a few scraps from the Speakers table to our district has no chance of changing that. Relentlessly standing up for the taxpayer, however, can save our state from the burdens placed on taxpayers from big-spending Albany," concluded Lalor.