Despite some progress and growth, we continue to see people leaving New York State. In fact, nearly 77,000 left the state between 2018 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Empire Center for Public Policy notes that approximately 1.4 million have left since 2010.
People aren’t leaving because of the weather, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has claimed, or due to the urging of elected officials such as President Donald Trump. Instead, residents, especially those in Upstate New York, are fleeing the state because they can’t afford to live here anymore, and businesses can’t thrive because of burdensome taxes, regulations and energy costs.
Many people in less populated and more rural upstate counties such as the ones we represent have expressed concerns with the direction in which our state is headed and rightfully so. In their eyes, New York State’s government is now controlled by one party and dominated by one region that caters more to the philosophies of a particular area as opposed to that of the entire state. Upstate New Yorkers worry that their voices won’t be heard because of the current makeup of state government.
Finding balance between all regions of our state is key.
How do we find this balance without disadvantaging any one region politically, philosophically or economically?
We can start with legislation (S2047/A6461), which we introduced last year that would amend the state constitution and award each county a single senator to represent it in the Legislature. As a result, the number of Senate districts would decrease from 63 to 62 while representation in the Assembly would continue to be based on population.
Our bill would help us to find balance among all regions of our state and would create a more equitable distribution of legislative representatives. It would model New York State’s government after that of the federal government, where congressional districts are determined by population but each state has two senators. Thanks to this setup, all states have an equal voice regardless of their population.
While the “Great Compromise” ensures that all states are equally represented in the federal government, our bill makes sure that all counties are represented when it comes to decisions being made that impact New Yorkers at the state level.
We understand that there are legal hurdles that stand in the way of the passage of this bill. For one, we would have to challenge and overturn a 1964 Supreme Court ruling. However, we are hopeful that a legal challenge could be successful because the courts and the times have changed since that initial decision more than 50 years ago. Our plan also requires a constitutional amendment that would have to be passed by two consecutive legislatures before going to voters to decide.
Some may see this effort as being partisan in nature and an attempt to regain Republican control in the Senate. While anything is a possibility, this is unlikely to occur, especially given the fact that upstate has not been a monolithic political entity. We have seen the election of Democrat countywide officials in upstate counties considered by many to be Republican. The same can be said for Republican officials in counties that are considered more Democrat.
In the end, we believe this is a concept that is certainly worth exploring. We are hopeful that with this idea we will build a groundswell of support from the public, particularly upstate residents, who want to see real reform that will help us find balance among all regions of our state. Our legislation helps us to find that balance.
If it works for America, it can work for New York State.