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Pork spending embedded in NY’s $212 billion budget fueled by tax hikes

Pork spending embedded in NY's $212 billion budget fueled by tax hikes

There’s a lot of pork, and even some bison, embedded in the state’s $212 billion budget agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature.

One $4,605,000 line item in the budget is targeted for “services and expenses of contractual payments related to the retention of professional football in Western New York.”

That would be state money for the Cuomo-favorite Buffalo Bills football team, which made a playoff run earlier this year.

Spend-thrift lawmakers also put out a slew of press releases Wednesday boasting about how they delivered the bacon in the state budget — fueled by more than $4 billion in tax hikes on upper-income New Yorkers and corporations despite the state receiving $12.6 billion in federal coronavirus stimulus funds.

The Kingsbridge Armory at Kingsbridge Road and Davidson Avenue in the Bronx.
The Kingsbridge Armory at Kingsbridge Road and Davidson Avenue in the Bronx.
Tomas E. Gaston

Bronx Sen. Gustavo Rivera told constituents there a “continuing $108 million for the development of the Kingsbridge Armory” in his district.

The facility has been dormant for decades. There’s been talk of the armory being turned into a hockey complex after a planned shopping complex fell through years ago.

Rivera also said he secured “at least” $650,000 for local organizations in his Bronx district, including senior centers, community centers, free legal service providers, and community health centers.

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There’s a $2 million re-appropriation for the Hispanic Federation.

Indeed, hundreds of cultural and community groups get funding.

The Belle Harbor Yacht Club garners $45,000 for “building improvement.”

The Belle Harbor Yacht Club is one of many recipients of pork spending in New York’s 2021 budget.
The Belle Harbor Yacht Club is one of many recipients of pork spending in New York’s 2021 budget.
Facebook

There’s promotional grants for scores of agricultural groups, including $125,000 for Christmas tree farmers association “to promote Christmas trees” and $50,000 to Hop Growers of New York to promote New York hops.

Grants are seemingly awarded to nearly every county business trade group group and local improvement district.

For example, $500,000 apiece went to the Brooklyn Alliance, Inc and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Lawmakers also reported boosting aid by $25 million to the Securing Communities Against Hate Crime Program to bolster safety at private and parochial schools.

After recently approving the legalization of marijuana, lawmakers steered $250,0000 to Cornell University for the “Cannabis Workforce Initiative.”

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Tens of millions of dollars spending are listed as “lump sum” appropriations — meaning the public doesn’t know precisely where the money is going, critics said.

Tom Riley walks through a hop yard at his Groveside Naturals Farm in Pittstown, NY.
Tom Riley walks through a hop yard at his Groveside Naturals Farm in Pittstown, NY.
AP

One budget watchdog said the massive state spending was beyond the pale amid a pandemic and despite the fact that Albany received $12.6 billion in federal COVID stimulus funding.

“The budget also includes an unexplained, out-of-the-blue $385 million appropriation for the state’s biggest capital pork barrel fund, the State and Municipal Facilities Program, even though nearly $2 billion remains unspent and local governments whose projects are funded with SMFP money are already awash in federal stimulus cash,” said EJ McMahon, fiscal analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy.

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About the author

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Raymond Hicks

With a knack for storytelling, Raymond started The Madison Leader Gazette about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the US & World section, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.

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