Saturday, June 24, 2006

More on pork

The Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy reports on Albany's pork spending:
The newly adopted state budget for 2006-07 includes a $200 million lump-sum appropriation for "services and expenses, grants in aid, or for contracts with certain not-for-profit agencies, universities, colleges, school districts, corporations, and/or municipalities."

The phrase is New York's budgetary euphemism for what is known in Washington, D.C., and other state capitals as "pork" or "earmarks." In Albany terminology, these kinds of expenditures are known as "member items."

The annual member-item allocation is divided among the two houses of the Legislature ($85 million each) and the governor ($30 million). Until the late 1990s, the items were routinely listed in budget bills or in legislative reports--which is how the rest of world came to know about state subsidies for projects like the state Museum of Cheese.

But in more recent years, the grants have been lumped together in a single appropriation, funded out of a special "Community Projects-007" account, and distributed according to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) executed by the governor, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker.

Under the current allocation system, no comprehensive list of projects is released. New York State's pork-barrel MOU list has not been readily available for widespread public scrutiny.

Until now.

Based on a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request filed with the governor's Budget Division, the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy has obtained complete lists of member items for each of the past three years. The documents amount to 1,154 pages, listing 22,980 individual grants totaling just over $479 million. They have been converted into three separate "pdf" files that can be opened with Adobe Acrobat Reader software.

To download one or more of the annual lists, go here.