ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — For New Yorkers living north of the five boroughs and Long Island, a trip to the city could someday turn into a trip into another state if one lawmaker gets her way.
The topic of splitting New York into two separate – upstate and downstate – entities has popped up again in Albany.
Republican state Sen. Daphne Jordan, who represents a suburban-rural district in eastern New York, has proposed legislation that would fund a study into the short-term and long-term costs of separating New York City and the surrounding area from the rest of New York.
SPLITTING THE STATE:
The idea of splitting upstate New York and the New York City metro area into two separate states comes up periodically in Albany, but it never gets beyond the proposal stage.
“Let’s look at it, get definitive figures,” said Sen. Jordan, from Halfmoon in Saratoga County.
Jordan’s measure would create a 15-member working group overseen by the state comptroller’s office and tasked with figuring out the cost of separating long-established state agencies, settling land disputes, and examining constitutional steps needed to split the state.
The group would then present the results of its study to the governor and the State Legislature. Ultimately, it would take an act of Congress to split New York into two states.
Jordan’s measure defines downstate as all five New York City boroughs, Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Westchester and Rockland counties. The state’s 53 other counties would be considered upstate.
“There’s all kind of things being passed (in Albany) that aren’t necessarily of upstate interest,” said Jordan, a first-year lawmaker whose 43rd Senate district covers Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Washington counties.
Supporters of the idea have pointed to the growing divide between the two regions’ political and social leanings.
Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1 statewide, with most of that dominant voting block concentrated in the New York City metro area. Most of the state’s more sparsely-populated areas upstate have traditionally leaned Republican. With every statewide elected office, the Assembly and now the Senate controlled by Democrats, Republican upstate lawmakers say their region’s needs will be ignored more than ever.
In 2015, some upstate residents angry over earlier passage of gun-control laws and a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) proposed that their towns along the Pennsylvania border secede and become part of the Keystone State.
Four years later, full Democratic control in Albany has resulted in a string of progressive laws being passed already this year, fostering a growing feeling among many in upstate New York that it’s time to seriously look into splitting off upstate from downstate.
“The impulse is understandable. There are real differences between upstate and downstate,” said E.J. McMahon of the Albany-based Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank.
But given the upstate region’s lagging economy and shrinking tax base, McMahon cautions that losing access to downstate-generated revenues would be felt from the Adirondacks to Buffalo.
“Upstate would need to do a really significant reset of the way government is funded and what it spends, and upstate politicians have not exactly been clamoring for the reforms that it would take to make that happen,” he said.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)