New NY budget allocates cash for beer, onions, and pit bulls
Published: April 3, 2015 Publication: NY Post By Carl Campanile and Kirstan Conley It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — in the new state budget. The $142 billion spending plan includes $125,000 in appropriations for the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York, which got one of the hundreds of pork-barrel grants handed out. Cornell University received $12,000 for onion research and another $200,000 for beer-making research; lawmakers earmarked $12,000 for honey bee research; $150,000 was given to the Maple Producers Association, and $115,000 went to the Berry Growers Association. Even pit bulls got love from Albany, with the budget appropriating $5,000 to Out of the Pits, a group that aids stray dogs of that breed. Another $2,500 goes to the New York Whale and Dolphin Action League. In one careless example, $24,523 in funds were earmarked to the defunct left-wing group ACORN, which shut its doors in 2010. “ACORN is deader than a doornail. It doesn’t exist anymore,” said its former general counsel, Arthur Schwartz. Lawmakers kicked in at least $2.2 million in taxpayer funds for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, a nice pass to help keep the team from leaving the Empire State. Another $1 million was allocated to the Wine and Grape Foundation, and the state’s Wine Council gets another $50,000 to promote vino tourism. Meanwhile, $1,100 was set aside for the Mill River Rod & Gun Club, $5,000 for the Sports Fishing Alliance, and $2,985 to the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame. Birdwatchers, rejoice: $8,750 is earmarked to the Garden City Bird Sanctuary on Long Island. Among the arts and music programs funded are the Municipal Arts Society ($2,500), the Brooklyn Heights Music Society ($2,488) and the Woodstock Poetry Festival ($2,557). Dozens of city merchant and civic groups were handed funds — including the Queens Tourism Council ($170,000), the Red Hook Chamber of Commerce ($4,160) and the Whitestone Taxpayers Community Center ($100,000). Goverment-watchdog groups slammed the pork-barrel grants, which were added to the budget at the 11th hour without prior debate. “Too much of the spending takes place in the shadows,” said Dick Dadey, director of Citizens Union. The Christmas Tree Farmers Association defended its funding as important in its competition with growers from other states. Association director Mary Jane Packer said North Carolina growers sell more Christmas trees in New York City than do in-state growers. “We want to raise awareness with New York customers of the importance of buying a New York tree,” Packer said of the group’s “Pride in New York” campaign.