Some Assembly members said their stance against the governor’s driver’s license plan scuttled member-item funds for their districts.
A $10,000 state grant to pay for safety and communication equipment for the city’s police department has been cut from the governor’s budget out of pure spite, Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, said.
Kolb said he thinks the cuts in 22 Assembly districts statewide amount to tit-for-tat politics to punish legislators who oppose Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
“This was going to be used to upgrade computers in police cars,” said Canandaigua Police Chief Patrick McCarthy. “If this funding does not become available, we’ll be in a situation where we’ll still have computers but our repair bills will be quite extensive and our capabilities with the (existing) computers in the cars will be diminished. I’m disappointed.”
Kolb likened the governor’s action to that of a “schoolyard bully.”
“It appears Governor Spitzer is playing partisan politics with the safety of Canandaigua residents,” Kolb said. “I do not want to see a critical incident happen because the police officers didn’t have the communication gear they needed to prevent tragedy.”
Another $1,000 grant for Cayuga County, which is also represented by Kolb, also will be withheld. It was to be used to defray the cost of broadcasting government meetings.
And the village of Palmyra in Wayne County will lose $10,800 to pay for two kiosks displaying maps for visitors, community events, public notices and village history. The kiosks have already been built, so with the loss of state grant money, village taxpayers are stuck with the bill. Also, some of the grant money was to be used to help the village pay to demolish a building on Palmyra’s canal front.
Assembly Minority Leader Joe Tedisco, R-Schenectady-Saratoga, took the biggest hit — $482,548 was eliminated. Tedisco said it’s because he told reporters that al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden would love Spitzer’s plan to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.
Spitzer defended his licensing plan, saying it would reduce insurance premiums and increase security by making streets safer and making it possible to track illegal immigrants.
A total of $740,433 of special grant money — so-called member-item funding — was eliminated, Tedisco said.
Spitzer spokesman Jeffrey Gordon disputes that total and use of the term “cut” to describe the governor’s action. Gordon said the member-item funding was $405,583 and the grants were “disapproved.”
Gordon said the governor’s action had nothing to do with the driver’s license flap.
In the past, member-item funds were divvied up between the governor’s office and the Assembly’s majority party; the minority members got nothing. But former Gov. George Pataki opted to give some of his governor member-item funds to the minority party.
When Spitzer was elected, he made it clear that Pataki’s unique political philanthropy would cease and only member-item grants approved before Jan. 1 would be honored, Gordon said.
Those that were “disapproved” are considered new grants because they were solicited after Jan.1, and therefore not consistent with Spitzer’s policy.
Assemblyman Bob Oaks, R-Macedon, thinks the governor should honor the funding commitments.
“Just because I disagree with Spitzer’s plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens doesn’t mean Palmyra should have to raise taxes to cover a grant that the governor reneged on because of my stance on this issue,” Oaks said in written statement.
-- Daily Messenger