When word spread that Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered the National Gaurd to seize ventilators and other medical equipment from hospitals across Upstate New York, it sparked an immediate backlash from both ends of the political spectrum, even prompting harsh rebukes from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
For many, particularly those on the right-leaning portion of the political spectrum, the moment crystallized the need for Statehood for Upstate New York. They argue that the governance structure must be legitimately constructed, such that the region is self-determining. Today, that’s not the case — with all of the State’s major levers of power being controlled by a single party dominated entirely by New York City and its immediate suburbs.
“Upstate New York does not have a capacity for self-government. We are taxed more than anywhere in the country, but we don’t have meaningful representation because the state is drawn to structurally marginalize us,” explains one advisor to Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who has already called for statehood two years ago.
The issue is about economics, they contend. So long as New York City powerbrokers control Upstate New York’s economy and treat it as a colony of Manhattan — aggressively expropriating its hydroelectric and other natural resources, Upstate New York will never be capable of rebuilding from its 65-year decline.
Democrats argue that State tax receipts received from the financial industry downstate are spent, in part, on economic development projects upstate. But those monies are nominal relative to the region’s GDP and could be more appropriately funded locally if Albany were not expropriating local resources. Advocates of Statehood contend that any lost money ostensibly derived from the New York City economy would be mitigated by federal funding formulas, in which Upstate would fare better if it stood alone.
“Imagine having two United States Senators from Upstate New York and a Governor that are committed full time to represent us,” posits a Hawley ally. “It would be a profoundly different posture because it would be about governing ourselves — not going to Albany with our hands out and ready to suck the proverbial dick.”
Movement organizers argue that Upstate needs low-tax, small-government, pro-growth conditions to turnaround the region’s structural stagnation. While New York City’s economy can, presumably, survive the high-tax and heavy regulatory environment, places like Buffalo and Binghamton cannot.
If it were its own state, Upstate New York would have 8 or 9 congressional districts, depending on the 2020 census and the subsequent redistricting, which would comprise a swing state with 10 or 11 electoral votes.
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