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Friday, April 11, 2008

A Little Pork Can Go a Long Way

- The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, located in upstate Goshen, NY, will receive a grant of $35,000 in taxpayer money from Republicans in the [NY] Senate. (Perhaps some of the money can be used to repair the website, which was down when I posted this.)

The money is part of the $200 million in "member items" that is included in the state budget which was agreed to by Governor Paterson and his friends in the legislature on Wednesday, a mere nine days late. That money ($85 million each for the Senate and Assembly, $30 million for Paterson) is available for lawmakers to dispense as they see fit - "pork barrel spending" if you prefer. Other examples cited by the Times are $5,000 to the Long Island Polar Bear Club, whose annual swim at Jones Beach on New Year's Day is always good for some local TV coverage, $2,000 to the Association of Sicilians United of NY, and $2,500 to the Doll and Toy Museum in NYC.

This money, as well as some $700 million for capital projects, usually non-profits (and if I'm not mistaken, that is the money that got Joe Bruno in trouble for giving $500,000 to his buddy Jared Abbruzzese's Evident Technologies), is being held up as a poster boy of the excess spending in the $121.7 billion budget, which is a 5% increase from last year. The budget uses one-time revenue shots (such as the $250 million anticipated fee from the still-yet-to-be-named operator of the Aqueduct VLT parlor), and new taxes and fees to try and make up for the spending. Smokers will now be paying close to ten bucks a pack here in the city with the cigarette tax going up $1.25; all of us will likely be paying for $70 million in new taxes on health insurance policies; and particularly insidious to me is a new law requiring out-of-state internet companies such as Amazon to charge sales tax. Ouch, that last one really hurts me and others who have grown accustomed to saving 8 3/8% on such purchases!

But that $200 million, while it makes for easy fodder for ridicule, is a mere drop in the bucket overall, representing a mere .165% of the overall budget. And the money can serve as a lifeline for tiny organizations and establishments which can mean a lot to a lot of people. So to me, that's the least of the problem. And that I guess is my take on pork barrel spending in general. It may be a typical liberal view on the matter, but then again, I guess that I'm a pretty typical liberal.

Remaining unresolved in the wake of the budget agreement is the NYC OTB situation. The operation is set to be shut down in mid-June, and you can bet that Mayor Mike will be in no mood for compromise after his congestion pricing and teacher tenure proposals were shot down.

"To date, while there has been much talk about the need for legislative action to save OTB, the talk has not produced any concrete legislative action," OTB President Raymond Casey testified Wednesday at a City Council hearing.
Casey was urged by an angry Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) to simply stop paying the state and horse-racing industry their shares of net revenues.

"Make them sue you for it," Jackson said, describing the state and the New York Racing Association as pigs "feeding on our corn." [NY Daily News]
And there's a thoughtful and rational solution to the problem for you! I wonder how much this guy knows about anything related to the industry.

- The Harness Hall of Fame also recently benefited from two grants for a project dedicated to memorializing Roosevelt Raceway, where it all began for yours truly and I'd surmise for at least a few of those of you reading this today as well.
With the aid of two 2007-08 Museum Collection and Research Grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the museum will record and digitize the more than 8,000 photographs, videos, programs and posters rescued from the raceway prior to its demolition in 2000.

The $15,000 grant for Phase I of the project will focus on a group of 3,500 press files containing photographs and press information, as well as a significant collection of video tape recordings salvaged from the shuttered raceway. After a second review of the museum’s project, the council awarded an additional $5,000 for the 2007/08 phase of the project. [Goshen Chronicle]
Definitely sounds like a worthwhile stop on my next trip up Route 17 to Monticello the Concord!


Anonymous said...

I stopped by the Harness Hall of Fame a few years back on the way home from Saratoga and it is worth a look. There is a race track and stables there as well. I think they have county fair racing around July 4th.

My personal Harness Hall of Fame is Yonkers Raceway. I have not been back to the Big Y since the slots came in, I'll have to check it out one of these days.

Anonymous said...

I Love it when my Liberal friends complain about high taxes.

All I can do Is shake my head.

Alan Mann said...

>>I Love it when my Liberal friends complain about high taxes.

Since you brought it up, the Senate - and the Governor for that matter - killed a proposal from the Assembly to temporarily increase the income tax on people earning a million bucks or more by 1%. That would have raised some $1.2 billion, and I imagine that those affected would have been happy contribute to the Harness Hall of Fame and other worthy causes.

Anonymous said...

There are no such thing as temporary taxes.

Anonymous said...

Only Republicans throw money away on useless projects. The democrats projects are all deserving of the money. Just ask Shelly Silver.

Just keep raising taxes. Ask John Corzine how that has worked in NJ.