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Reforming government means addition by subtraction

October 3, 2019 05:06 pm

Nobody has ever accused New York state of having too little government. In fact, nobody ever accused New York of having just enough government. It’s always too much bureaucracy, too many taxes and fees, too many overpaid and underachieving lawmakers.

Since April, movements to divide New York state have been gaining steam among disgruntled legislators and their constituents after a 2019 legislative session that pushed out multiple progressive bills.

The Divide New York State Caucus, which is behind the head-scratching proposal to split New York into three distinct but autonomous regions, has been holding multiple meetings in various counties each month since a bill was introduced by Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-147, in April.

Under the plan, New York City would be its own autonomous region. Westchester, Long Island and Rockland counties would make up their own region. And the rest of upstate New York would constitute the third autonomous region. Each would have a regional governor, assembly and senate. That’s three governors, assemblies and senates. And they say there is too much government now.

“To divide the state is basically economics,” said Caucus Chairman John Bergener. “The overregulation of densely populated cities being spread statewide has killed the upstate economy.”

Bergener said the plan draws boundaries to ensure that each region would be able to support itself financially.

Yet foes of secession point to data showing a vast majority of the state’s income tax revenue comes from New York City, along with Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Upstate counties, on the other hand, contribute 18% in total, according to data from the state Department of Budget analyzed by Politifact in 2018.

Countering this argument, supporters contend downstate municipalities cost the state much more than those upstate. But a 2011 report from the Rockefeller Institute found that downstate pays more in taxes than it gets back, and another 2016 Politifact report found that Western New York counties receive a larger percentage share of state spending than its contribution in taxes.

Still others argue that the divide is cultural and value-driven.

“Our constituencies are so very different, our ways of living, our family values, our livelihoods,” said Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-139, comparing upstate and downstate. “We need to open our eyes and think about the entire state of New York.”

This potpourri lacks focus for all regions of the state. Yes, there are many aspects of New York that need an overhaul, but there is no positive proof that each region could support itself financially. There is no mechanism in place for electing three separate legislatures and governors. And what about the judicial branch?

The best comment on this issue came from Rich Azzopardi, senior advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a former journalist who understands state government: “There is pandering and then there is the Godzilla of pandering. This divisive stunt isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

It would be good if the governor and state lawmakers started looking for ways to reform government from within instead of unleashing the dragon.