Monday, August 18, 2008

Pork's role

The New York Daily News called state legislators' hand on its editorial page today. Enjoy:

The same state lawmakers who claim they can't trim spending without harming children and puppies are blowing millions on pork-barrel giveaways.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo ran a check on some of the 6,500 so-called member items dished out by legislators in 2006 from a $120 million slush fund.

Over and over, he found mindless and/or wasteful earmarks.

Emblematic was a $5,000 gift engineered by Long Island Sen. Charles Fuschillo for his friends at the Massapequa Elks Lodge.

Cuomo stopped the Elks from using the money - taxpayer funds - to buy, of all things, a walk-in freezer for the club's exclusive use.

Other beneficiaries lacked even basic tax documents to show they were going concerns.

And a whopping 2,700 organizations - more than 40% of the total - walked away from money rather than fill out paperwork explaining who they were and what public need they would supposedly fill.

Among the absconders was the Building Blocks Local Development Corp. of Brooklyn, whose 2005 tax return showed it had delivered zero community service because it had zero money. No matter.

Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat now running for reelection, has sent the group $15,000 annually for the past three years.

The Legislature is giving away millions not to serve urgent needs, but to buy support at election time. Whether funds are wisely used is beside the point.

Fuschillo said, for example, he was stunned the Elks tried to buy a freezer. He had thought they'd put the $5,000 to "defray the cost of charitable endeavors."

Whatever that means.

This is exactly the kind of waste that must stop in the face of New York's fiscal crisis. And it must stop Monday, when the Legislature meets in special session at Gov. Paterson's order.

He has called on the Legislature to chop its pork budget in half, for a saving of $100 million.

That's not nearly enough.

Get rid of it all.
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