Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
search  
 
Subscribe   Subscribe   MI on Facebook Find us on Twitter Find us on Instagram      
 
 
   
 
     
 

The Post-Standard

 

Albany's Pork Spending Should Be Ended, Not Mended

May 12, 2008

By E. J. McMahon

Nearly a month after passing the state budget, the state Legislature finally got around to disclosing important details of nearly $150 million in pork-barrel "member item" allocations last week.

As usual, Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans have claimed a disproportionately large slice of the pork pie -- and they're serving up the biggest allocations to their most politically powerful or vulnerable members.

Critics say the process is unfair. That's true -- but fairness is not the real issue here.

The fundamental problem with member items is not equity but excess. In defending their pork proclivities, legislators talk as if there are important community needs that would not be met without their member-item funding.

In fact, not counting member items, the $122 billion state budget already includes hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for regular state agency programs with goals similar or even identical to that of member-item grants.

For example, the state Office for the Aging will spend $246 million this year on "programs and services which support and empower the elderly" yet the member-item breakdown includes literally hundreds of special allocations to senior citizen centers that already receive state funding through regular state channels.

In addition, the pork list includes hundreds of special-interest handouts like $5,000 to collect oral histories from Italian-American leaders in New York City, $150,000 to build a boathouse for rowing teams in Syracuse and $5,000 for the curiously named "Men With Exquisite Taste" education program Queens.

There are dozens and dozens of grants to Little Leagues and other youth sports groups for everything from uniforms to field improvements -- the kind of thing that, not too long ago, was paid for entirely through bake sales, raffles and 50-50 drawings. Most of this stuff is unobjectionable -- but why are the taxpayers footing the bill?

The real purpose of member items is not programmatic but political. The process allows legislators to dole out financial "contributions" as if each of them was a wealthy philanthropist -- but using taxpayers' money. In the process, they pick up IOUs for redemption at election time. In effect, it's a form of public campaign financing by another name.

Well-meaning good-government advocates say member items can be reformed through greater transparency. They're wrong.

The program is a symptom of waste and irresponsibility, as well as secrecy. It's inherently prone to abuse and corruption. The right answer is to do away with member item spending all together.

In other words, don't mend it, end it.

 

 
PRINTER FRIENDLY
 
LATEST FROM OUR SCHOLARS

5 Reasons Janet Yellen Shouldn’t Focus On Income Inequality
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, 10-20-14

Why The Comptroller Race Matters
Nicole Gelinas, 10-20-14

Obama Should Have Picked “Ebola Czar” With Public-Health Experience
Paul Howard, 10-18-14

Success Of Parent Trigger Is Unclear­—Just As Foes Want
Ben Boychuk, 10-18-14

On Obamacare's Second Birthday, Whither The HSA?
Paul Howard, 10-16-14

You Can Repeal Obamacare And Keep Kentucky's Insurance Exchange
Avik Roy, 10-15-14

Are Private Exchanges The Future Of Health Insurance?
Yevgeniy Feyman, 10-15-14

This Nobel Prize-Worthy Economist Figured Out How To Destroy Terrorism
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, 10-15-14

 
 
 

The Manhattan Institute, a 501(c)(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas
that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.

Copyright © 2014 Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc. All rights reserved.

52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017
phone (212) 599-7000 / fax (212) 599-3494