May 14, 2019

Splitting the Empire (Part 2)

In Monday's post, I reviewed one of the options for splitting New York to allow for better representation for folks in the vast upstate area. This is necessary, the thinking goes, because those pesky downstate liberal Democrats who own the Assembly, the Senate and the Governorship are not paying any attention to us, now that the Republicans have lost control of the State Senate.

Yesterday's option was to make a completely new state encompassing what's generally referred to as upstate New York.

Today, we'll look at the plan put forth by Assemblyman David DiPietro, from Erie County. Instead of making a separate state out of Red New York, DiPietro's plan would keep NY a state, but one with three autonomous regions: New York, which includes Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond counties (the five boroughs); Montauk, consisting of Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester counties, and New Amsterdam, which would include the other 53 counties of the state. For federal purposes, though, "New York" would still mean the entire state.

This is necessary, we're told on the SplitTheState website, where DiPietro has a petition supporting this idea, because
New York City has taxed us out of our homes and our businesses. Our values are ignored and our resources are shipped downstate where we never see the benefits. 
Under the plan, outlined in this bill, each region would have its own governor, legislature, and judiciary, and most state responsibilities would be eliminated.  Under DiPietro's bill, we'd need to do some significant remodeling on the state Constitution to accommodate the split plan.

Let's look at some of the details of the plan.
  • The state will maintain control over state and teacher retirement plans and sales tax, state courts, and the Metro-North and Long Island Railroad Boards. Everything else - Authorities, commissions and departments - would be abolished and apportioned regionally. Some would be split four ways, instead of three, to accommodate responsibilities associated with the remaining activities of the state of New York.
  • State law-making responsibility would only include anything that applies to the state as a whole (rules governing election to federal office, for example). 
  • The SUNY System would be abolished, and campuses within each of the regions would become that region's University.  Payments would be made by each region to the other regions to for each student attending another region's University.
  • Prisons - most of which are located in New Amsterdam - would be regionally assigned. There would be two correctional facilities for men and one for women deemed to be owned, rented or leased by New Amsterdam. The rest of the state facilities located here would be deemed owned, leased or rented by either New York or Montauk, and time would be served in a prison designated for the region in which the crime occurred. 
  • There would be regional Assemblies and Senates, regional governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general. The legislators would also serve as state legislators. There would be 24 senators for New Amsterdam, 34 for New York, and 12 for Montauk. Each regional Assemblyman would represent 125,000 people; initial districts would be drawn by the state Court of Appeals.
  • Under the plan, everything still will be done in five months. January - March would be for regional governing, budgets and so on, and April and May would be reserved for overarching state business.
  • And, all of the Consolidated Laws of New York will be applied as the laws for each region unless modified by the regional government. Interestingly, there's a special call-out for asset forfeiture laws, which would only apply to the owner of the asset IF the asset was used in commission or stemmed from commission of a crime. Not sure why that change is necessary right out of the gate? 
  • Sales taxes are limited initially to a maximum of 8%, then decreasing to a max of 7%; the state must pay each region proportionally 25% of all sales tax collected. And, no Internet sales tax, it seems. There'll be a use tax on items over $1000 that are used within the state but purchased elsewhere.
There's more -- lots more -- but I'm not sure yet, after reading the bill, how much we will have gained, overall. Sure, we have regional autonomy, but 
  • I don't see that we've shrunk the size of government; we're still on the hook for state debt (distributed regionally based on population); 
  • we now regionally own all former state assets, including our deteriorating highways, bridges and other infrastructure; 
  • I'm not sure whether any of the onerous laws that we complain about so much will be addressed given the limited time allowed for the regional sessions, given the fact that basically the entire NYCRR is being moved intact; and
  • Our shrinking population, income and tax base makes it hard to see how we'd be able to handle all of our new responsibilities and their related costs. 
DiPietro is not deterred - we'll be "redder than Texas" if this goes through, although in all honesty, that's not something I consider aspirational, given the direction the Lone Star State is headed lately.

I've signed up for emails from Split the State, to see what they're sharing and to get a foot in the door for asking questions. Of course, getting answers might be as hard as getting answers from my own legislators, none of whom are good at that aspect of constituent service.

I'll keep you posted on anything I learn. And, if you're interested, the petition is front and center on DiPietro's website. 

2 comments:

  1. Also interesting, and also flawed for the reasons you outline. will stay tuned. Thanks for doing this, Sue--your blog is indeed a public service.

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  2. Thanks, MA. This one scares me a little; I'm convinced there won't be a lot of sunshine and transparency around it. I had to look for the actual bill text because the website only included the high level legalese, not any of the details. It wasn't hard to find it, but that's not an auspicious start for something that's this complicated and potentially this important. Plus that "Texas" comment - yikes!

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