Governor Cuomo used his veto powers Wednesday to ax over a hundred different items in the recently passed budget. While Cuomo says it's about cutting down on wasteful spending, some lawmakers say he's hurting groups and projects that can't survive without state money. Capital Tonight reporter Nick Reisman has more.
NEW YORK STATE -- Governor Andrew Cuomo broke out his veto pen on Wednesday, striking down 122 different items in the $132.6 billion spending plan he says is legislative pork slipped in by the legislature. The money is commonly referred to as member items, cash that is earmarked at the discretion of lawmakers for projects back in their districts.
“It's not the largest sum of money. It's about $640,000, give or take. But the principle is the principle that there would be no new member items and I believe these are new member items,” Cuomo said.
Wednesday was the final day for Cuomo to issue any vetoes of the state budget, approved a day before the March 31 deadline. Cuomo is not removing the $38 million worth of legislative member items that were already agreed to in past budget. Legislative officials insisted there is no new pork included in the budget. There's a backlog of more than $200 million that's still unspent. Cuomo explained his decision inside a fire house in Schoharie County.
“An organization like the one we're in today could have received a member item. I went through those as the attorney general. If I didn't find the legal purpose to them, we flagged it at that time, but if the state made a commitment to an organization or if there was a budget item allocation as part of a past budget deal, I understand that. I can't go back, you know. I can only go forward,” Cuomo said.
Member items have come under criticism for lax oversight and illegal abuse. Two years ago, then Governor David Paterson went on a line-item vetoing spree, striking out millions of dollars in pork. But some lawmakers feel they've been unfairly singled out this time around.
“Well I think that this is a governor who is not just attacking Democrats but primarily attacking black and Latino communities across the state but particularly in New York City. To find $600,000 worth of cuts is like finding a needle in a haystack in the context of a $132 billion budget,” Senator Kevin Parker said.
The majority of the member item vetoes appear aimed at Senate Democrats, who have sparred with governor over a pension overhaul and redistricting. Senator Kevin Parker said he didn't think the vetoes were aimed at his conference.
“There are cuts all across the state. Assembly and Senate, Democrat and Republican, but it's certainly hurting smaller organizations. And so if you look at who the targets were, that's why I think it's grievous and unnecessary,” Parker said.