It’s often said that information is power. Unshackle Upstate no doubt hopes that’s true.
The coalition of business and trade organizations representing some 70,000 companies this week released its legislative scorecards for the 2009-10 session, putting under the microscope lawmakers’ voting records on a range of tax- and business-related issues.
"We want taxpayers to make their own determinations as to what constitutes a passing grade," said Unshackle Upstate executive director Brian Sampson as the group released its findings. "But frankly, a large number of legislators-both Republicans and Democrats-should be embarrassed by their score."
Stephen Hawley, the Batavia Republican, earned a perfect 100 and ranked first among 150 Assembly representatives receiving scores. Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, both scored in the 80s.
By contrast, two Rochester Democrats-Assemblyman David Gantt and Assemblywoman Susan John-earned scores of 2 and minus-1, respectively.
Some might be tempted to dismiss the scorecards as purely partisan. Indeed, while some Democrats faired reasonably well-Perinton Assemblyman David Koon, for example, received a score of 73-the overwhelming majority of lawmakers with positive grades are Republicans.
This result, however, seems more a reflection of a basic fact: Many Democratic legislators have hewed closely to the line laid down by their party’s downstate leadership. And the leadership’s priorities all too often run counter to the interests of business owners and taxpayers generally.
Unshackle Upstate acknowledges that a multiyear analysis of votes might have produced somewhat different scores. In making endorsements in selected races this fall, the group itself will not make judgments solely based on scorecard numbers for the 2009-10 session.
But voting records matter. Unshackle Upstate has made the job of holding legislators accountable for their votes considerably easier.
The challenge now is to identify worthy challengers in key races-and deliver a strong message on Nov. 2.