Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Is the state Senate budget a case of downstate provincialism?

A lot has been said recently as the budget process grinds forward. The age-old us vs. them arguments continue to broil.

When Governor Paterson first released his executive budget, there were rumblings from local officials alleging the Governor was throwing the 9.2 billion deficit on the backs of the North Country.

A few phone calls quickly showed this to be false. Paterson wanted to cut over $1 billion -- over $300 in municipal aid alone -- to his hometown of New York City.

But the Senate's version seems like a different beast.

Until two years ago, the state's upper house was the lone bastion of GOP power in New York. Then Majority Leader and now convict Joe Bruno ran the floor with an iron fist -- and made some enemies on the other side of the isle.

This week, the Democratic Senate leadership has proposed closing three upstate prisons, two of which in the immediate area. It wants to gut all state funding from ORDA, crippling an organization that pumps $350 million in annual revenue to a chronically depressed region.

To be fair, Senate Majority Leader John Sampson has included $1.4 billion in cuts to education aid and another $1 billion to healthcare -- the state's two largest expenses.

Keeping these cuts is politically perilous as about half of Senate Democrats have vocally opposed cutting aid to schools, especially in an election year.

But the rest of the Senate budget seems targeted at upstate and the North Country.

It salvages Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, which so happens to be in Democratic Senator Darrell Aubertine's district, but closes the two in Betty Little's.

It may be the case that the primarily Downstate Democratic Senate Conference is just sick and tired of propping up the North Country.

Money isn't flowing freely anymore on Wall Street and what we are seeing could just be a reaction to the fact that regional cash is running short.

But it could be something else. This could be retribution for the Senate's recent history.

On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger said, "This budget is about priorities."

I am sure it is Senator and we hear you loud and clear.

1 comment:

  1. Previous friends of the North Country were Stafford, Sweeney, Pataki.... all gone.

    Definitely some revenge and politics going on.