Written by Jack Martins Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
If you’re a person who values common sense, then prepare yourself to be disgusted and angry. I’m about to tell you about a sensible piece of legislation that’s long overdue, but is being blocked by the New York State Assembly, which is shamelessly pandering to its constituents with your tax money. In fact, you may be shocked to learn that we even need this legislation at all, let alone that it’s being systematically stymied by some in Albany.
Currently, New York issues something called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to our welfare recipients. It works much like a debit card and it allows us to help our needy neighbors in an efficient yet dignified way. The system conveniently provides a Food Stamp and a Cash Assistance component all on one card. As it stands, strict regulations dictate what can be purchased with the Food Stamp allotment. Cash assistance, on the other hand, is intended to pay for items not covered by Food Stamps, such as soap, toothpaste, school supplies and toiletries. To be clear, there are no restrictions whatsoever on the use of the Cash Assistance component. None. It’s doled out like cash.
Now you can probably already guess what happens when you don’t place any restrictions on a program. It gets abused and that’s exactly what’s happening here. The Public Assistance Integrity Act (S.966), a bill I have co-sponsored, was introduced in response to this abuse which would prohibit using EBT cards for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, and ATM cash withdrawals at liquor stores and casinos.
This seems like a no-brainer, right? Why would anyone want our already stretched tax dollars being spent on smokes, booze or gambling? Clearly, no one wants to cast stones because everyone has vices, but accepting that reality doesn’t mean we should pay for those vices. That’s why this common-sense law was overwhelmingly passed by my colleagues and I in the state Senate in June of this year. Audaciously – but not surprisingly – the state Assembly has sat on it and not taken any action.
Now I can give you their politically correct reason, which is that they feel it might be unfair. In fact, one senator actually argued that we might be penalizing mothers who withdraw money at casinos and liquor stores to simply buy milk! But if you’d rather hear the truth than have me sell you a bridge, here it is. The Assembly is controlled by and mostly made up of New York City representatives. A good portion of our EBT recipients live in their districts and they’d jeopardize their re-elections by showing some backbone here. That’s it in a nutshell.
Just to prove that this isn’t a Republican versus Democrat issue, I’ll add that the Obama administration is now also requiring states to restrict how the cash portion of social services is spent. If they don’t, states risk losing 5 percent of their assistance funding next year. In New York that would come to about to $125 million.
New Yorkers have always been extraordinarily generous when it comes to public assistance, but that shouldn’t carry over to waste and abuse. For every dollar that’s wasted, that means one less dollar to help those who truly need it. That’s the true tragedy. Those who would oppose this change in favor of the status quo are only further hurting those in need and all for the sake of political pandering.
It’s hard to fathom how something so rational is being ignored, but remember Albert Einstein’s observation that, “The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.” Enough said.
If you’d like to tell the state Assembly to get with the program, sign the online petition on my website at martins.nysenate.gov. Hopefully we can also show that stupidity has its limits.
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00
A group of like-minded local residents banded together and saved more than 200 area trees from the chopping block — for now.
A state judge ordered Nassau County and the Department of Public Works to stop cutting down trees along South Oyster Bay Road, granting a temporary restraining order to a group of residents spearheading an effort to save the trees.
State Supreme Court Judge Antonio Brandveen scheduled a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 16 for the county to address complaints from residents, in particular a group called Operation STOMP (Save Trees Over More Pavement) founded by Hicksville native Tanya Lukasik.The Public Works department had planned to removed more than 200 30-foot trees in communities ranging from Plainview, Bethpage, Hicksville and Syosset.
Friday, 17 October 2014 00:00
For the past 16 years, Lucia Simon has walked from her home in Hicksville to her job at the Hicksville Public Library. She enjoys her job as a librarian and says that the staff has become like family to her. But for the past three years, Simon and 56 fellow co-workers have been frustrated at what she says is the library’s board refusal to negotiate a fair contract.
“We have had no contract in three years. They refuse to bargain with us. Every time they come back to us it’s not fair,” says Simon.
However, the board of trustees disagree, saying that it has made a “fair offer.”
Thursday, 16 October 2014 08:31
The Girls Varsity soccer team, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, wore pink uniforms and pink socks in their game on Oct. 8 against MacArthur whom they defeated 1-0. The girls and boys soccer programs at Hicksville High School are selling pink ribbon car magnets with a soccer ball and HHS on it with the words “Kick Cancer” on the ribbon. All the money raised will go to the Sarah Grace Foundation, which is a local foundation trying to beat pediatric cancer. The players plan to raise $1,000 for this organization
— From Hicksville High School
Thursday, 09 October 2014 08:47
The Mets minor league system is enjoying a rare period of prosperity. For years, it was barren due to trading off high-ceiling players for major leaguers, or neglecting the draft in favor of the free agent market. Since General Manager Sandy Alderson took over, the organization has reversed course and put a much greater emphasis on player development. During his second-to-last season, however, former GM Omar Minaya took a chance and drafted a local catcher, Cam Maron, out of Hicksville High School in the 34th round.