Member Items and Stimulus

Reader Rich sent in a letter from State Senator George Winner, which I've included after the break. Winner tells the Village of Penn Yan that his member items have been eliminated, as have all the member items of Republican Senators.

I haven't seen this reported anywhere, but it seems like big news, especially in the 29th, where we're represented by Republicans in the State Senate. It also sounds like big news for Eric Massa, because the money in the stimulus bill is all the more critical to towns in the 29th.

I'm not an expert on the dysfunctional New York State Senate, so if anyone has any more information on this, I'd appreciate hearing it.

Update: A reader wrote to say that member items in the New York State Senate were almost completely alloted to Republicans. The new plan, apparently, is to eliminate member items entirely. That doesn't mean that it hurts less, but it sounds less partisan that Winner claims in his letter.

February 10, 2009

Mr. Richard Osgood
Village of Penn Yan
111 Elm Street
Penn Yan, New York 14527

Dear Mr. Osgood:

This letter is to follow up on the status of the Member Item which your organization was awarded through the adoption of the 2008-09 State Budget.

It is with deep frustration and no small measure of anger that I have to inform you that a recent action by Governor David Paterson, working in concert with the Democratic leadership of the state Senate and Assembly, has eliminated the 2008-2009 Senate Republican Member Item account. As you know, this account would have been used to reimburse you for the project as outlined in the Member Item grant which was approved through the adoption of legislation by both houses of the Legislature and received final approval by Governor Paterson in April 2008.

First and foremost, you should know that this action was undertaken on a purely partisan basis as only Senate -- Republican-sponsored funding will be eliminated.

Secondly, it's important that I immediately and strongly advise you to not proceed with your project. You can rest assured that I will be doing everything within my power within the deliberations of the 2009-2010 Budget to reverse this unfair and regrettable action and will immediately update you on any new developments. However, should the previously anticipated Member Item process be given the light of day in the future and move forward, you are still advised to not spend any money until you have an approved/signed contract and that you can get some reasonable assurance from the administering agency that they will be able to reimburse the expenditures.

This action by Governor Paterson and the state's Democratic legislative leadership has put an unfair financial burden on the many organizations, including yours, that have put their trust in the legislative Member Item process. In my strong opinion, it's simply wrong for Governor Paterson and the Legislature's Democratic leadership to break previously made state commitments -- and the appropriation authority for these projects was clearly approved by the Legislature and the Governor last year. This was not a well thought-out move, and the actions will only hurt local organizations as well as those across the state.

I would urge you to communicate to Governor Paterson and protest this partisan unfair action. Please be assured that I will continue to work on your behalf in attempting to restore this very valuable funding.

George H. Winner, Jr.


If your reader statement is correct "The new plan, apparently, is to eliminate member items entirely. " then Senator's Winner statement " only Senate -- Republican-sponsored funding will be eliminated." is false.

I'll phone Senator Winner's office Monday or Tuesday and try to figure out what really happened.

I'd be interested in hearing what they say.

The question I'll ask is, "Which Democrats' member items were not eliminated?"