Earlier this week, I voted “no” on the “Merger Bill” presented before me in the State Assembly (A.9060-C). I have always been a proponent of government consolidation when there is a legitimate financial gain associated with the measure. Merging state entities is a step in the right direction toward reducing the impact, size and cost of government. This bill did not accomplish this goal, but, instead, created a commission lacking transparency and accountability that’s responsible for billions of dollars in state revenue generated from gambling.
There is no savings or personnel reduction associated with this bill. The Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) identified over 600 mergers and consolidations that would have offered significant savings - the Merger Bill addressed only 24 out of the 600 recommendations, and the ones picked weren’t functioning and, therefore, provided no savings to the taxpayer.
The Merger Bill does establish a New York State Gaming Commission to oversee the operations of the State Racing and Wagering Board, the Division of Lottery and various racing/gaming commissions and public benefit corporations.
However, the Merger Bill allows the New York State Gaming Commission to be created without minority party input, which will hinder the transparency, openness and fairness that all New Yorkers deserve from their State Agencies. An amendment put forth by the Minority Conference was offered – and subsequently defeated by the Assembly Majority – which would have created a State Gaming Commission comprised of members appointed by the majority and minority leaders from both houses of the legislature.
This amendment would have allowed for a more efficient, transparent and effective commission to responsibly regulate the billions of dollars in proposed state revenue from the gaming industry. Given the ongoing investigations into political corruption, and politicians taking advantage of their political standing and power to pad their own pockets when there was one- party-control of state government, it’s clear that the state must learn from its mistakes and create measures to ensure accountability.
A Gaming Commission requires close regulation and bipartisanship. I voted against the Merger Bill because it is unacceptable to hide such an incredibly necessary and important Commission among an insignificant smattering of empty mergers.