Erie County Legislature Chairperson Betty Jean Grant led the County Legislature Democratic majority and sponsoring a resolution strongly opposing the addition of a 63rd Senate seat to the New York State Senate at the Legislature's session on Thursday, Jan. 26.
The legislature Democrats cosponsored the resolution opposing creating a new seat in the New York State Senate.
"Recent media reports have drawn attention to a New York State Senate Republican proposal to add a 63rd Senate seat. Republicans defend this proposal due to a 500,000-person increase in the state's population since district lines were redrawn in 2002," Grant said. "With New York state about to lose two Congressional seats, down to 27 from 29, because the state's population has grown much less than other states, New York state's somewhat anemic population growth should not serve as an excuse to increase the size of government, particularly at the policymaking level of the New York State Legislature."
"I am not aware of any outcry from the public demanding the addition of a New York State Senate seat. Indeed, the chorus supporting smaller government grows more vocal with each passing year," Grant continued. "The Erie County Legislature undertook not one, but two, downsizing efforts during the last decade, and successfully implemented both - a downsizing from 17 seats to 15 seats in 2002, and again a downsizing from 15 seats to 11 seats effective this year."
"It would be fitting for New York state to consider the downsizing efforts at both the county and federal levels as a lesson in 21st century civics and the direction the taxpaying public wants government to head in," Grant concluded.
Government downsizing proponent Kevin Gaughan, who led the effort to force a referendum to reduce the size of the Grand Island Town Board, has gone so far as to challenge New York State Sen. Dean Skelos to a debate on whether to increase or reduce the size of the State Senate.
Gaughan has asked the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara to moderate the discussion. In addition, Gaughan has asked Skelos to put his plan to add a seat to a statewide vote so New York residents can decide the matter.
Such a change must be approved by both the Senate and Assembly, and signed into law by the governor.
"With our state struggling to reverse its economic decline, and at a time when we're losing two congressional seats," Gaughan asserted, "the last thing we need is another part-time state politician with lifetime benefits."
Last year, Gaughan proposed reducing the state senate to 50 members, and spent last summer organizing citizens throughout the state's 62 counties in support of his initiative.
Gaughan is leading an effort to reduce government size and cost, and revive upstate New York's economy. So far, his efforts have led to voters adopting government downsizing measures in six towns, and one village, eliminating 22 elected positions. His effort to reduce the Grand Island Town Board from five to three members failed at a referendum in September of 2010.