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Report: state budget has $$$ in pork

New York State Capitol
New York State Capitol(MGN / Matt H. Wade / CC BY 3.0)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:02 PM EDT
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - New York state’s new budget contains millions of dollars in pork, the New York Post reports.

“Pork” is money put into the budget to help a specific group or business, and for which there’s no debate or discussion. It’s usually hidden in the budget under obscure titles - and sometimes there is no explanation at all for the money’s purpose.

The pork in this year’s budget comes as New York plans to spend a record $212 billion and raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest citizens to pay for its spending.

Some of the spending uncovered by the Post includes:

- $4.6 million to the Buffalo Bills for “services and expenses of contractual payments related to the retention of professional football in Western New York.”

- $125,000 to the group representing Christmas tree farmers to promote Christmas trees.

- With the legislature having just approved legal marijuana, there is $250,000 in the budget for Cornell University and something called the “Cannabis Workforce Initiative.”

To be sure, not all pork spending is controversial; some of it, for instance, goes to community health centers. And even critics of pork acknowledge that it makes sense for a legislator to have a big say in the money going to his or her district - after all, they know it best.

The problem is, pork is easily abused.

“I think the problem with pork is, it’s not transparent. There’s no accountability ultimately as to how and where it will be applied and then it becomes politicized,” said Joe Griffo, the Republican state senator who represents much of the north country.

“Very often it can be used for political purposes,” said Will Barclay, the state assemblyman from Pulaski who leads Republicans in the state Assembly.

“So you’re questioning whether the use of that pork is just for the purposes of trying to get a favored person re-elected, or is it actually being used for a good, reasonable governmental purpose,” Barclay said.

Plus, this year the state is simply going to spend a lot of money, a record $212 billion, and critics question whether the state should spend millions on pork in addition to the big ticket items in the budget like increased funding for education, emergency assistance for renters and unemployment payments for undocumented workers.

Barclay said that if Republicans ever retake control of the Assembly, he would look to put limits on pork.

“Under the current leadership, I don’t see that happening,” he said.

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