If DivideNY Wants To Be Taken Seriously, They Have Some Questions To Answer

Republicans are a dying breed in New York state politics, as rural areas lose population and influence at the expense of bigger cities and their suburbs.

The statewide response to COVID-19, which came with policies tailored toward dense cities and not more spread out rural areas, only exacerbated the upstate/downstate divide.

It is little wonder, then, that in some circles a proposal (S.5416/A.5498) to split New York into three autonomous zones is gaining support. It’s popular here in Western New York, an area whose residents often feel they are forsaken by downstate politicians who seemingly take aim at local autonomy with every bill that gets passed in Albany. Surely it would be nice to walk into the legislative chambers with a fighting chance to pass legislation your constituents want to see become law rather than simply fighting the good fight only to see legislation your constituents bitterly oppose become law.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate.

We’re not sure, though, how much sense it makes to create more layers of government in a state that should be cutting layers of government. More importantly, we aren’t sure rural areas like ours would be able to see enough cost savings to balance out losing access to the tax revenue generated by New York City. Chautauqua County doesn’t have Wall Street to generate revenue and its industrial base has been dwindling for decades. Perhaps Buffalo and other cities in the New Amsterdam region could generate enough revenue, but frankly, no one knows for sure. For those who support the DivideNY movement to have any chance to be taken seriously, they need to stop speaking in platitudes and generalities and get down to brass tacks — what would a budget look like? How would county taxes and services change? How could local taxes change? What regulations would go away if rural counties like Chautauqua and Cattaraugus didn’t have to live under the thumb of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and downstate Democrats? What services could change and how many people would that affect?

Until those questions can be answered, DivideNY will never be more than the sort of exercise that belongs in a high school government class.


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