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Want to fix NY’s legislature? Stop their mailings!

by Cliff Weathers

If you’re a registered voter, you likely get regular mailings from your State Senator and Assembly member. Often times, these mailings, which are paid for with our tax dollars, are nothing more than political advertising or state-sponsored political campaigning. And many good-government groups say its time that they go:

We do have taxpayer-financed elections. They are called Senate and Assembly mailings,” said Lise Bang-Jensen, a senior policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute’s Empire Center for New York State Policy, which analyzes state payroll and legislative office expenses.

Recently, Greg Ball, a Republican State Assembly member from Putnam County who is running for the State Senate, sent out mailings’€”paid for by our tax dollars’€”to promote an April 15 Tax Day protest event where he and several other “Tea Party” candidates made campaign speeches bragging how they’ll fight for taxpayers. Just how ironic is that?

It gets  worse, it’s alleged that Ball’s mailings didn’t only go out to his constituents, those in the larger 40th Senate District (that don’t live in Ball’s 99th Assembly District) complain that they got the Tax Day Protest invitations, which also tout the Assembly member as a “real leader and reformer.” The legality of the mailings are currently being challenged by Ball’s opponent and other regional politicians. This isn’t the first time these mailing privileges have been misused, and it certainly won’t be the last.

I often like to refer to the legislature’s mailing as “incumbency insurance.” The practice is not only cynical, questionably ethical, and easily abused, it’s outrageously expensive, costing New York taxpayers $27.3 million per year. That princely sum is roughly equivalent to the cuts being proposed to our State Parks system, cuts that might close 55 park services, including the pool at Tallman State Park and the Stony Point Battlefield.

With more efficient, and much less expensive communications such as Web sites, e-mail, and text messaging available, it’s time that we do away with taypayer-funded mailings. Also, think of the good we’d be doing our environment by eliminating these mailings; imagine of the natural resources and fuel we’d save over time.

So, make it a point to take your State legislature members and candidates to task over this issue. Demand that they support doing away with outmoded, expensive, and environmentally insensitive practice. And demand that they use taxpayer dollars for the good of all New Yorkers, and not for the reelection campaigns of a few politicians.

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