Last week I coronated the St. Lawrence County Clerk the"Soap Box Queen". Patty Ritchie, in an apparent attempt to make herself a household name, or at least a Facebook name, has taken on the license plate fee and snowmobile registration fund issues, without offering ideas or solutions as to how she would either cut programs or raise fees and taxes to close New York State's Budget deficit.
Enter State Senator Joe Griffo of the 47th Senate District. He has taken to finding fault with everything Governor Paterson has proposed and has picked up the same cudgle as Ms. Ritchie, the proposed one million dollar sweep of snowmobile trail funds to help reduce the state's budget deficit. Along with the snowmobile clubs and Patty Ritchie, Mr. Griffo has been using the argument that "This money belongs to the snowmobilers. It comes from registration fees and belongs to them and shouldn't be used to balance the budget." That's not a direct quote but a close summary of the argument. I don't buy the argument, because snowmobile registration money is no more sacrosanct than my automobile registration money, but for the fun of it let's give Joe Griffo the chance to be consistent.
State representatives have access to funds to be doled out to pet projects in their district called member items. This is pure pork barrel spending and vote buying with taxpayer dollars. Nearly all, if not all state legislators engage in this practice, the attitude being "it's the name of the game". It does appear that some engage in their pork habit with more gusto than others. The Soap Box King appears to truly have enjoyed his pork while he was in the majority.
Now, back to the snowmobile/soapbox issue. Does Senator Griffo wish to be consistent? Is he really concerned about the state's budget mess? Or... is the snowmobile registration fund issue just a chance to jump on the soapbox and sing for a special interest?
Mr.Griffo has provided $50,000.00 of pork barrel, member item money, taxpayer money,to the Lewis County Area Snowmobile Association during a recent budget year according to the website www.syracuse.com/data/pork-spending/. That $50,000.00 was clearly taxpayer money. It can not be argued that the money belongs to the snowmobilers as with the trail fund. Step down from the soapbox Joe and lose your partisan stripes. You can't complain about the Governor's cuts on the one hand by saying the money isn't taxpayer money and then on the other hand give away taxpayer money as a pork barrel member item all the while complaining about the state's financial mess.
New York is in fiscal crisis (like nearly every other state in the union) because of a severe recession brought about by greedy investment bankers. New York was especially hard hit with Wall Street being "ground zero" for the crisis. New York State was hit hard by the loss of revenues generated by Wall Street. As for any structural budgetary problems, both parties have dirty hands. Joe Griffo has contibuted his share of excess spending through pork barrel member items when times looked rosier.
Right now we have a crisis and politicians can stand on principles and behave like statesmen or they can try to turn every issue into a chance to score points and act like Soap Box Royalty.
Don't grandstand against what the Governor's doing or criticise him for the budget deficit while you've handed out taxpayer money to the same group he just proposed to cut.
This is an election year and I fear based on the evidence thus far the Soap Box Queen and King will continue to make partisan, emotion based appeals without offering alternatives, or in the case of Mr. Griffo, offering hypocrisy.