Today, our friends at NYPIRG released their analysis of the legislature’s member items for the current fiscal year.
The bottom line is that the funds are still distributed inequitably. In the Assembly, a whopping 81 percent of districts receive less than the average disbursement, which means that a small number of members – usually those in or close to the leadership - receive a disproportionately large amount of the funds. In the Senate, fewer than one third of the chamber’s members control more than 75 percent of member item funds.
While many member items fund good causes in members’ home districts, they can also be a tool for chamber leadership to retain control over members and another pot of money into which corrupt legislators can dip – as was the case with Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, who collected $95,000 from a little league that was included in his member item distribution.
Reform advocates (including NYPIRG and the Brennan Center) support a measure that would entitle members to the same amount of member item funding and place tighter controls on conflicts of interest.