While the average state Senator received $1.3 million of discretionary funds, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) took home a whopping $5.7 million of the pork barrel grants—making him the emblem of a flawed system in which the bulk of cash for local groups and projects gets doled out by just a few influential lawmakers, according to a new study.
A report by the New York Public Interest Research Group reveals that discretionary funds don't turn out helping most New York state residents because the majority of lawmakers don't get their fair share of the cash. The average state Senator brought home $4.4 million less than Smith, and some legislators netted as little as $183,000. The Post points out that roughly a third of legislators take home about half of the money, with 43 of the state's 62 senators receiving less than the average $1.2 million.
"It's indefensible," said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner, who noted that state Sen. Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga) only landed $250,000, while Smith got $5.7 million. "There are just as many people who live in Senator McDonald's district as there are living in Senator Smith's district. They should get the same amount." Smith—who has been subpoenaed by federal investigators for giving pork to an embattled nonprofit involved in the Aqueduct Racetrack scandal—said he got so much money because he intends to give the cash to groups outside his district. "His member items were given out on a statewide basis to community-based organizations in districts from Buffalo to Brookhaven," said spokesman Austin Shafran.