Cronyism was legendary in New York under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Kathy Hochul, the unelected governor of the once-great state has perfected the technique in record time, reportedly giving herself nearly $1 billion in this year’s budget to spend however she wants, without legislative approval.
But wait, you say, that’s not how money is allocated in America. Legislatures approve spending for specific line items, and money is not spent that hasn’t been specifically allocated. Ah, you poor, idealistic, deluded citizen – how quaint that you still believe that.
It may still be true in states that aren’t entirely controlled by Democrats, but New York has been transformed under the likes of Cuomo and Hochul, and there is no one to keep them accountable anymore, least of all the other one-party state known as the mainstream media.
Has the governor in New York been using taxpayer money to buy votes for this year’s election bid against GOP rival Lee Zeldin, who has nearly drawn even with her in the polls? You be the judge.
The state’s $220.5 billion budget, passed this summer by the Democrat-dominated legislature, includes $920 million in discretionary funds that can be spent at Hochul’s whim, according to the New York Post.
“These slush funds are totally unaccountable. It’s not how public dollars should be doled out,” said Rachael Fauss on Friday. Fauss is a senior policy adviser of Reinvent Albany.
The money “will go to projects and purposes that primarily will be identified behind closed doors. As such, they are ripe for political allocation rather than a distribution based on sound, holistic capital planning that addresses critical infrastructure needs,” said the Citizens Budget Commission in July, noting that the outlay was added late in the budget process.
The CBC enumerates the three “programs” that constitute the $920 million slush fund. Two of them – the Long Island Investment Fund, and the Local Community Assistance Program – can be spent “for essentially any purpose.” Neither is “subject to any agreement with the Legislature.” The third fund, $385 of the total, requires the signature of one other Democrat, Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
The governor’s website boasts about the usage of the programs.
“The Long Island Investment Fund will focus on large-scale projects that will support and grow the regional economy, enhance communities, and have lasting impacts across the Long Island region.”
What possible need could Hochul have for traditional campaigning, when she can just go around collecting good press for cheery projects and ribbon-cutting ceremonies?
Recently, she announced $50 million in funding for a competition to “attract and grow companies in the life sciences, health technology and medical device sectors” on Long Island, Rep. Lee Zeldin’s home base.
This first-of-its-kind health and sciences hub will grow our workforce and open doors to the careers of the future.
It’s a clear sign that New York is coming back — and we’re coming back stronger and better than ever.https://t.co/uz67fEFrBZ
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) October 14, 2022
She also reportedly doled out a $10 million grant to the Northwell Health network’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research for 26 new, state-of-the-art laboratories in Manhasset.
The funding is being used to benefit other Democrat politicians as well. One contentious state senate race this cycle pits incumbent Anna Kaplan (D-Carle Place) against Republican Jack Martins, who is gaining traction as he campaigns against New York’s bail-reform law. Kaplan appeared with Hochul at a news conference on the Feinstein Institutes’ grant.
“Kathy Hochul hasn’t simply blurred the line between governing and campaigning — she’s completely erased it,” remarked state Senate Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Fulton).
“New York has the least transparent budget process imaginable and what we’re seeing now is a product of creating pools of money with no guidelines whatsoever.”
In addition to the $920 million slush fund, the CBC identified six specific pork projects in the budget, including $600 million for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, right in Hochul’s hometown.
Like Nancy Pelosi, Hochul’s corruption extends generously to her husband. Bill Hochul, a former Buffalo US Attorney, is now a top executive at the company that manages concession and retail outlets at the Bills’ Highmark Stadium.
Hochul also laid out $20 million in reconstruction funding for her own alma mater, Syracuse University – for the Carrier Dome sports stadium. No conflict of interest there.
With so many ceremonies, who has time for campaigning?
- The Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the South Bronx is receiving $11 million.
- The Mohawk Harbor Events Center in Schenectady is getting $10 million.
- The New York Hall. of Science in Corona, Queens will get $10 million.
- The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University in Lower Manhattan get’s $5 million.
The CBC’s analysis claims that perhaps $1.2 billion of the spending could be financed by bonds, which could “consume” the state’s ability to issue debt, hampering its ability to address future “critical” needs.
“This is Cuomo crony capitalism 2.0,” said city Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), spokesman for the pro-Zeldin Save Our State political action committee. “It’s the same old from the same old Albany crowd. And there’s nothing to address the real issues New Yorkers are concerned about.”
“This is a classic Andrew Cuomo tactic — a pre-election Santa Claus giveaway to key voting constituencies. It costs Gov. Hochul nothing, but it costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, all to benefit her reelection drive… You can’t get much swampier than this,” said Republican political consultant William O’Reilly.
Hochul spokesperson Avi Small made a lame response by email:
“Gov. Hochul worked with the legislature to craft a fiscally responsible budget, using an influx of federal pandemic relief to make strategic investments in public safety, infrastructure, and tax relief while also making unprecedented deposits in rainy day reserves to protect against future uncertainty – even leading to Moody’s upgrading the state’s credit rating after the budget was passed.”
If you can say “fiscally responsible” about this budget with a straight face, you have perfected the art of the demagogue.
Cronyism has been perfected by the Democratic party and taken to the extreme. Incumbents have enough benefits in reelection bids without adding gigantic unaccountable slush funds to their quiver.
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