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Guest Column: Should upstate be its own state?

Guest Column: Should upstate be its own state?

Upstate taking a beating from downstate. Time to break apart?
Guest Column: Should upstate be its own state?
State Sen. Jim Tedisco, pictured here on Feb. 23, 2017, asks if Upstate New York should become its own state.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Should upstate New York become the 51st state?

Don’t laugh. Here me out on this. It actually may be time to seriously consider that question.

The reality is that upstate and downstate New York have been living separate lives for years in terms of priorities.

For decades, upstate New York’s quality of life has been protected by a balance of power in state government thanks to a Republican majority in the state Senate, which provided checks and balances to the largely downstate-driven Democratic leadership.  
That changed in November 2018 with the Senate Democrats taking a 40-seat majority, joining an impenetrable 107-seat Democratic majority in the Assembly and the election of a Democratic governor to a third term.

With no Republican majority to serve as a safety valve to stop or at least mitigate some of their extreme, regressive policies, the newly emboldened Democratic majority has passed a litany of measures destined to turn the “Empire State” into the “Empty State.”

New York leads the nation in out-migration of residents to other states. More than 189,000 people left the state just last year and 1 million over the past decade. The weather is not why many people left, as our governor has suggested. And it’s not the federal government, as this exodus has been happening for years.

It’s the extreme downstate agenda that has driven people and jobs out, making New York one of the highest taxed states in the nation.  

Our state consistently leads the nation in highest taxes and is on the list as one of the worst places to retire.

Instead of offering solutions to reverse those alarming statistics, such as lowering taxes, capping state spending and removing obstacles to private-sector job growth, in the past month, the governor and legislative majorities have passed one of the most extreme and radical agendas this or any other state has ever seen.

For instance, the governor’s budget proposes to eliminate $60 million in AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding affecting more than 90 percent of towns and villages across the state, especially those cash-strapped municipalities upstate.

This is just the beginning of the downstate Democrats’ radical reshaping of our state.

This is against the backdrop of the governor’s recent announcement that he wants to give away $3 billion in taxpayer-funded incentives to lure Amazon to New York City.

Meanwhile, parts of the 49th Senate District have no broadband or cellular coverage, which is essential for economic development and communications.

The governor is in his ninth year of office and I’ve yet to hear a coherent upstate economic plan from his administration.

Unfortunately, upstate New York has been an afterthought of the downstate political establishment for a long time. We are like a “flyover state” to them. 

The ascendancy of the Senate Democratic majority is only making this geographic discrimination against upstate more obvious and pronounced.

I, and many of my Republican colleagues in the Senate and Assembly, have been and will continue to be a strong voice to speak up for upstate and our quality of life. But it may be time to try a new approach to the upstate/downstate divide.

My colleagues from western New York, Sen. Joseph Robach (R-Rochester) and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R-Batavia), are sponsoring legislation for a non-binding referendum to gauge public support for the separation of upstate and downstate New York into two separate states. 

I never seriously considered this proposal until recently. But it’s becoming clearer each day that something outside the box must be done to protect upstate’s quality of life and get downstate’s attention that we exist and we matter. 

Should upstate become the 51st state? Maybe it’s time to see what the voters think.

Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) represents the 49th State Senate District, which includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.

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