Fixing Albany One Member Item At A Time

Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has agreed to make public the member items pushed by each of us in the State Senate. This is great news for all New Yorkers.

I've always been out front in releasing my member item lists, both in the City Council and now in the State Senate. To be perfectly honest, the Senate list didn't take so long to compile. As a member of the minority party, I have $150,000 to help fund organizations that I deem worthy. Compare that with the $2 to $3 million that Republican leaders had offered former Senator Seymour Lachman if he switched parties. (He refused.)

Member spending, at its best, helps foster a more vibrant civil society. I represent the 28th Senate District, have lived here all my life, and – through research and personal experience – have a pretty good sense of the groups that will use this money to make a difference.

But at its worst, when the system is veiled and imbalanced, member spending consolidates power for incumbents and majority parties. There is no reason why Republicans in the State Senate deserve so much more discretionary spending power than their colleagues across the aisle.

After all, the groups that benefit from my member items, such as food pantries and museums, are fundamentally non-partisan. Having a Republican or Democrat representing them in Albany should not affect how much food they provide for the homeless, or how much art they hang on the walls.

We not only need more transparency, but also a more equitable system. I realize cynics might say that pushing a pro-reform agenda while in the minority is – to borrow a famous phrase – like calling yourself a vegetarian between meals. But reform is an issue I sincerely believe in, and one that I will fight for regardless of who controls the Senate. Right now, fixing Albany is the #1 priority.