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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Member Items: Some Districts Getting Gypped

A few weeks ago, state senator Jose M. Serrano introduced a bill that would change the way member items are distributed and called for more transparency in how representatives are spending them. (Member items—or public money generally intended for nonprofits and community needs—have landed a number of Bronx politicians in hot water for alleged misuse).

One aspect of the legislation called for equal distribution of funds to all senate and assembly members. A statement from Serrano’s office at the time of the bill’s introduction said the current system for allocating member item funds is done “disproportionately,” with larger amounts going to the majority party.

According to an article posted Monday on the Albany Times Union’s blog, that’s definitely the case—and the politicians who represent your district might be getting the short end of the stick.

The good folks at government watchdog groups NYPIRG, Citizens Union of the City of New York, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Center for Justice have taken the time to analyze just how much each politician pulled in for their district. What they found was that the vast majority are getting below the average amount of funds given out.

According to the article, 81 percent of New York’s Assembly districts received below the $300,000 member item average in the current fiscal year. Senate districts received an average of $1.2 million in pork, and 69 percent of the state’s districts got less than that amount.

"Until the system becomes more equitable and transparent, certain districts and organizations will continue to benefit at the expense of others, and that does not make for a better New York," Serrano said in a statement on March 9.

Some Bronx pols didn’t fair so poorly. Sen. Jeff Klein, who also represents parts of Westchester, scored the second highest chunk of funds in the senate—$5 million, or $3,708,410 more than the average.

To see how much your representatives got, check out the list at the bottom of this Times Union piece.


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