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Eighty-five percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say the Rochester area does not get its fair share of state funding.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2014-15 budget and the latest round of regional economic development council awards have prompted some local officials to question the level of support from Albany. (See the op-ed on page 38 by Mark Peterson, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise.)
In December, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council was awarded $59.8 million, which ranked eighth among the 10 councils in 2013. The Finger Lakes council had been the big winner in 2012, receiving $96.2 million; its three-year total of $227.8 million is fifth among the 10 councils.
Area officials were disappointed that the top-priority project for 2013, Eastman Business Park, did not receive funding. Nor did it receive a new allocation in Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget plan.
By contrast, the governor proposed $680 million as part of the “Buffalo Billion” plan to revitalize that city’s economy. Nano Utica got a $180 million allocation, the SUNY College for Nanoscale and Science Engineering near Albany got $50 million, and Onondaga Lake revitalization projects received $30 million.
Meanwhile, Lovely Warren became the latest Rochester mayor to argue in Albany that the city is not on a level playing field with other upstate cities in terms of required school district funding and per capita state assistance.
“Rochester continues to have the highest maintenance of effort and the lowest per-capita Aid and Incentives to Municipalities—or AIM—of our major upstate cities,” she said, adding that “the current system of AIM aid allocation is arbitrary at best—biased at worst—and certainly unfair to Rochester.”
Nearly 60 percent of readers who responded said state funds given to localities should be allocated according to need, compared with 42 percent who said it should be per capita.
Roughly 410 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Feb. 3 and 4.
Some say the Rochester area does not get its fair share of state funding. Do you agree or disagree?
Agree strongly: 63%
Agree somewhat: 22%
Disagree somewhat: 8%
Disagree strongly: 7%
In your view, should state funds given to localities be allocated based on need or per capita?
Per capita: 42%
Rochester should be receiving a higher amount based either on need or per capita. Given our poverty rate and the fact that we receive less per capita than the other upstate cities, we are clearly receiving less than is needed.
Should be based on both. General funding based on population, special grants and projects funding based on need.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford
It can be argued that Rochester does not receive its fair share when compared with other state regional councils. However, in a state that is already one of the most heavily taxed in the nation, why are we talking about increasing feeding at the trough? Where does the money come from for the reallocation to the various regional councils? Or does the majority feel taxes are fine as long as they get a disproportionate share when Father Albany and the governor redistribute them? If you want your taxes to decrease, we need to look at new ways to finance projects and provide funding, preferably at a more local level where there is a higher degree of control.
—Keith B. Robinson, Diamond Packaging
It would be much better if all these funds from New York State were not taken from our council areas in the first place. If we had the money already, we wouldn’t have to go begging for it. Government should guarantee a level playing field and not pick monetary winners and losers. The Adirondacks create a money shadow with all the cash rolling back down toward Albany and down the Hudson to New York City.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.
The challenge is effective use of funds more than distribution by either need or per capita formulas. With hundreds of local town and school entities, there is wide spectrum of competence. More taxes or revised distribution formulae merely fuel local ineptitude. Periodic audits just uncover dirt; they don’t fix core problems related to competence.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
There was a time that Rochester was doing well enough economically and there were other areas in a greater need. Today that is no longer true, and it is “payback” time. I stress per capita to keep it honest; the “need” can be manufactured. Besides, we do not pay into the tax coffers “per need” but per capita.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Aid should be need-based. If the needs don’t equal or exceed the funds available, then pay down debt and/or save for the future. If the state distributes money to Onondaga County for a need, Erie County isn’t entitled to money. That thinking is what drains the coffers, and then when a disaster hits (Superstorm Sandy, for example), there isn’t enough left to give the appropriate aid without going deeper into debt or raising taxes. Also, “need” is not the same as “want” or “Gee, that would be nice to have.”
This is a joke, right? State funds are distributed on political patronage. Always have been, always will. This is the price of socialism, as chosen by its voters.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
We have seen time and time again where the Greater Rochester area does not get an equitable return on its tax investment in the state of New York. The only logical remedy is to allocate dollars per capita, as “need” is subjective and varies from resident to resident.
I hate this question! Why don’t we take the view that we should lower taxes and lower state aid? Rochester could stand on its own if we had lower taxes and less business regulation. We have an entrepreneurial culture and a well-educated workforce. Get government out of the way and watch out!
—John Calia, Vistage International
State funding to municipalities should largely be eliminated and state taxes reduced accordingly. Municipalities should raise the funding that they need to function from local taxes, thereby making the local constituency the judges of the priorities that the local governments propose. State funding is like financial heroin that creates a dependency for spending that local residents should want to have better control over. New York is one of the highest-taxing states, and we are losing population as people choose to move to lower-taxing states like Florida and Texas, both Republican and more fiscally conservative states.
—Dave Coriale, Webster
There shouldn’t be a “fair share”! What gives politicians the right to confiscate our money and dole it out as they wish? For favors? For votes? For friends? For publicity? There is not any evidence that there is any other reason. Taxes are through the roof. Young professionals are leaving in droves. Businesses are leaving. Just look at all the executive houses for sale in the weekend home section. The majority of those people aren’t moving up, they’re moving out! The taxes on those incomes will be gone. The average person can’t afford the property and school taxes on those homes. Bausch & Lomb Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp., just in Rochester alone. Yet Andy will offer no taxes to new businesses? What about the stubborn who have survived idiotic socialist policies to date? The “funding” is tax dollars, not a gift bestowed upon us to be grateful for. Revolt against the overtaxation, oversized worthless government, useless unproductive government unions and the income distribution of your hard-earned confiscated tax dollars. Yes we can!
Here's a novel idea: decrease taxes on everyone in the state, abolish the state's Economic Development bureaucracy, let our local private economic developers spend their newly improved net incomes on local economic development projects. End this municipal welfare program! Attract entrepreneurs to New York State with lower taxes, more economic freedom!
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.
In New York State, we pay overall the highest taxes in the United States. It’s pretty pathetic when we have to beg the bureaucrats in Albany for our “fair share.” They take our tax dollars and run it through the political machine; almost like an organized crime syndicate. They give a taste to their allies such as the public unions to pay for outrageous benefits far exceeding comparable jobs in the private sector. For every tax dollar that gets trapped in the government bureaucracy it comes back to us substantially discounted. All this is being done on the backs of the majority of the middle class to support this out of control government class. In addition, if we are lucky enough to get selected for an economic development project, government many times ties it to project labor type agreements, which increase the cost of the project far above the cost in the private sector which increases the need for more future taxes to feed the monster. The solution is making New York a right to work state, eliminating project labor agreements, renegotiating public union contracts to the level of the private sector, a school voucher system which will encourage private school competition, term limits, reducing Medicaid benefits to the level of other states, eliminate costly mandates on employers, etc. If the public unions balk at contract renegotiations, start massive government layoffs and replace with private sector company contracts which are competitively bid. But the governor and the other politicians continue to talk about gimmicks, which is like treating a cancer with pimple cream.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
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