Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Pork Projects Survive

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that Gov. David Paterson's veto pen has yet to end spending for legislative earmarks, state records show.

The state in July signed off on $12.5 million in member items for lawmakers' hometown projects — including $438,000 for a senior center in Queens, $100,000 for a group opposed to a major power line in central New York and $7,500 for the Rochester crime stoppers program.

In all, 609 member items were signed off by the state Comptroller's Office in July, a review by the Journal's Albany bureau found. An additional 57 projects totaling nearly $1 million were approved in just the first few days of August.

The spending comes even after Paterson held marathon sessions last month to personally sign 6,709 vetoes of lawmakers' pork-barrel projects approved in last year's budget, a total of about $190 million. But the vetoes haven't shut off the spending spigot quite yet.

State law allows the money from last year's budget to flow until Sept. 15. So nonprofits and local governments, who were banking on the money before Paterson's surprising vetoes, are making a dash for the cash before it's too late.

"We're hearing from groups all over that they are scrambling right now to get all their vouchers in and work completed," said Ron Deutsch, who heads New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, a group that works with non-profits. "Everyone's in scramble mode right now."

The stakes are high from some groups that rely on the member items to fund programs and, in some cases, to stay in business.

Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, R-Red Hook, said he doesn't oppose Paterson's vetoes of the member items, but the governor should have done it last year — before the groups were counting on the money.

"I have a concern about the governor vetoing dollars that have been awarded and, at the very least, were in the process of being contracted," he said.

Some groups said they have been waiting for reimbursements from member items pledged for their projects last year. Read more here.

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