Advocates of a move to split New York into three autonomous regions have apparently been gaining allies.
State Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora, introduced a bill proposing this in April. The Divide New York State Caucus has been holding meetings in different counties to drum up support from municipal leaders. If enough of them push the issue, legislators from these areas would be required to co-sponsor the bill per the Municipal Home Rule Law.
New York City would become its own region; Long Island, Rockland and Westchester would be the second; and the rest of the state would be the third. Each region would have its own governor, assembly and senate.
“In debates over whether to split the state, opponents of secession often point to data that shows that a vast majority of the state’s income tax revenue comes from New York City, along with Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Upstate counties, on the other hand, contribute 18 percent in total, according to data from the state Department of Budget analyzed by Politifact in 2018,” according to a story published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-139, who is also in support of dividing New York state, argues that downstate municipalities also cost the state much more than those upstate. But a 2011 report from the Rockefeller Institute found that downstate pays more in taxes than it gets back, and another 2016 Politifact report found that Western New York counties receive a larger percentage share of state spending than its contribution in taxes.”
The real question is whether the interests of various sections of New York are being adequately represented in the state Legislature. Democrats control both the state Assembly and Senate, and most of them come from the New York City area. How much do these lawmakers reflect the views of people from rural parts of the state such as Northern New York?
In many ways, there are vast disparities. And given the strength of New York City voters, this isn’t going to change anytime soon.
However, the notion of dividing New York into three autonomous regions is doomed to fail. It would require the state to financially support three governors, three assemblies and three senates.
We seriously doubt that such a plan would garner enough support to be approved statewide. It calls for radical changes, and that’s just not in the cards.
Another proposal that also addresses this problem wouldn’t mean splitting the state’s bases of power. It calls for altering the makeup of one legislative chamber, not the entire government.
Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, sponsored bills to have each of the state’s 62 counties elect their own senator. The Assembly would continue to draw representative districts on population numbers while the Senate would reflect the interests of individual counties.
Of course, this mirrors how we run our federal government: The U.S. House of Representatives uses districts based on population, while the U.S. Senate recognizes the sovereignty of states. This varied approach has served our nation well for more than 200 years.
Changing this aspect of state government faces numerous challenges of its own. People from the sections of the state that wield the most influence aren’t likely to have their power diminished without a fight.
But this proposed change is substantially less drastic than creating three autonomous regions. If people want to do something to correct the balance of power in Albany, revising the composition of the Senate is a good place to start.