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Who’s The Real Mooch In NYS?

Of all the issues that divide New York State residents, few are as fundamental or provocative as the cultural differences between Upstate and New York City. A citizen need not travel far or read many lines Upstate to encounter someone who thinks all our problems would disappear if the two regions split into two separate states. Poughkeepsie might be the duct-tape dividing line between the two feuding siblings sharing a room. So says Senator Joseph Robach (R-Greece), Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R-Batavia) and a few other legislative co-sponsors from Central and Western New York.

To start, it is completely impractical. Let’s not delve too deep into detail on the political and bureaucratic chaos that would ensue. Responsible elected officials who propose this are well aware. They are simply trying to capitalize on a glitzy, albeit infantile, political fantasy. It is an attempt to inflame the foolishness that they apparently perceive in their voters.

What is funny, but also somewhat sad about the whole charade is that Upstate New York is an overwhelming beneficiary of Downstate business. It is we who are mooching off them. A Rockefeller Institute report found that 40% of all NYS tax revenue is generated in NYC. The revenue from NYC, Long Island, and Westchester County combined account for two-thirds.

The state boasts a population of roughly 19 million. That is more residents than Holland, Greece, Sweden, Chile. The vast majority of our residents live in or around that small island on the opposite side of the state. Our GDP is about $1 Trillion; more than Spain’s entire economy. That economic productivity is not coming from family farms or wineries. It comes from The Big Apple.

Do these disgruntled Upstaters not realize the benefit of sharing a state with the nation’s largest city? It isn’t just the cultural capital of America but the entire world. The United Nations is headquartered in Manhattan. The New York Stock Exchange is the nucleus of global finance. The City’s real estate market is perpetually booming. Real estate magnates and Wall Street Titans don’t pay enough taxes in my opinion, but they do pay a lot. We in Upstate would not survive without the billionaires’ tax money in Manhattan, Long Island, or Westchester. The tragic irony is that it’s poorer rural Upstate who cries to split from NYC instead of the reverse. They’d be fine without us.

Diversity in every form is what puts New York State among the most powerful and influential in the Union since we were one of the 13 colonies. The qualities that make New York great are the qualities that make America great. None of the other 49 have the luxuries of a bustling global metropolis, dairy farms, mountains, lakes, small public colleges and prestigious Ivy League Universities. A Lebanese immigrant from Queens could visit Times Square, a Bills game, an Amish community in Cattaraugus County and the National Comedy Center. Only in New York State.

Be careful what you wish for. If this proposal were to gain traction (which it won’t) the already scattered NYS Legislature would be bedlam. Good luck even getting anyone to agree where Upstate begins and downstate ends. Yonkers? Poughkeepsie? Albany? Nobody wants to witness that. One from Upstate does not have to live in the multicultural beehive of NYC to appreciate the benefits it provides the whole state. They’re better with us and we’re better with them.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.

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