Albany effort should focus on our money

Paula PiattEach year, thousands of sportsmen go on a hunt. They’ve scouted the terrain and they know where the quarry is likely hidden. They practice and practice before heading into the unknown. They don’t know if they’ll be successful, even if they do find what they’re looking for. And many times, they’re not even sure they find what they are looking for.

But nonetheless, they’ll hunt. As they climb the Capital steps in Albany, if nothing else, they are ready.

But I think they’re hunting for a rhinoceros when they should be looking for a plain, old whitetail.

For the past several years, the winter march on Albany has focused on the oft-repeated “Don’t take away our guns!” cry. And while it’s certainly an admirable – and necessary – plea, I respectfully submit that the 2013 flag should read “Give us back our money!”

Gun control has to be one of the most polarizing topics in American politics. But let’s face it, people screaming “Second Amendment” rarely change the minds of the opposition, sitting squarely with their fingers in their ears. But the NRA is going to keep screaming, regardless. Let them do the screaming; there’s a huge lobby that does nothing but that.

But New York sportsmen, gathered annually by the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) have a much more local, much more pressing problem on their hands. One that, perhaps, they can make a little headway on if they raise enough of a ruckus.

In Albany there sits a bank account, one of many to be sure, but this one has our money in it. At last count, $50.8 million of it. We’ve given it to the state in the form of hunting and fishing license fees (even more of it since the 2008 license fee hike). And the $50.8 million in the Conservation Fund keeps growing. And everyone agrees that it could fund a number of important things, things that aren’t being done now – additional ECOs, fish hatchery work, promoting hunting and fishing in the state, habitat work. You name it, it’s probably not being done because “we have no money.”

Well, we do, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t let us spend it. Our money. Legally, they can’t spend it anywhere else – although I’m sure they’ve looked for ways around that clause. But given the financial abyss New York state is in – we fell off that “financial cliff” a long, long time ago – Cuomo has said “nobody can spend anything.” On paper, that looks good. And, in the end, it might pull the Empire State out of the mire. But Cuomo has forgotten one small detail.

It’s OUR money. Earmarked for OUR stuff. It’s not going to clean up the New York City subway system; it’s not going to pull the education department out of the ditch, and it’s not going to solve the problems of the state pension fund. Legally, all it can do is make repairs to the state’s aging fish hatchery system; market the state’s outdoor resources; pay some of the ECOs salaries and, in general, fund DEC's fish and wildlife division. You know, the agency that looks out for OUR interests in Albany.

So this March, if we’re really looking to make a difference and it’s true that “politics is all local,” then let’s fight for something that will make a difference in what you and I see every time we step into the field or walk along a stream.

Let’s go on a hunt for our money.

Categories: New York – Paula Piatt

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