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Silver wants pork barrel spending back

March 20, 2012 3:18:25 PM PDT
NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants to return to what's called "member items."

It's better known as pork barrel spending.

What do a karate chimpanzee trainer, African dancers, and a parrot adoption service have in common? They have all received thousands of dollars in state-taxpayer funded earmarks.

"It doesn't go into our pockets, it goes to the birds," said Gayle Schwartz, Parrot Adoption Service.

But it all flew away two years ago when faced with crippling deficits; Former Governor Patterson cut $200 million in annual member items.

That meant no more state funding for synchronized swimming in Long Island, or Liza concerts in Brooklyn and the rowing club in Newburgh.

But now, the second most powerful politician in Albany is pushing to bring back the pork.

"I think members know their districts and needs of their districts better than anyone else. I believe members should be able to address needs in their district," NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

But, Governor Cuomo has no interest in a pork revival.

"I don't have money for new member items in my budget and I don't support it. Speaker Silver spoke publicly about it, but I haven't put any member items in my budget," Governor Cuomo said.

Incumbent lawmakers pushing to bring back member items should come as no surprise, as pork is the currency of incumbents.

"This is basically re-election insurance. They have their photos taken handing over their checks to people and they expect that good will flow back to them at election time," said E.J. McMahon, Empire Center.

"That's my job to bring money back to my district," said Sen. Carl Marcellino.

Only two years after folding, the pork party may be coming back, so taxpayers get ready to dig into your pockets for parrot adoption, pioneer oil museums, fancy town clocks, and a chimp sanctuary.

"The reality is if they want something to happen in Albany, they can make it happen. Remember this is an election year. These guys like to be able to give out money during an election year to boost their own standing," said Ron Deutsch, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness.

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