ALBANY — The state Senate's Republican majority provided almost $10 million more in school aid Tuesday night, but only to school districts represented by Republican senators this election year.
In one of the most heated floor fights in recent years in the sharply partisan chamber, Senate Democrats called the unexpected extra school aid nothing more than pork-barrel spending, which was supposed to be eliminated in the budget adopted in March. The debate also ignited an upstate versus downstate fight in the chamber where Republicans have a 32-30 majority.
"So for us there's nothing and we have to go back to our district and say, 'You cannot even buy a smart board?" said Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat representing some of the state's poorest schools. "What's going on here? ... Because you say, 'We are in power now.' God Bless you. Enjoy your power."
Sen. John DeFrancisco, an Onondaga County Republican, noted Democrats also sent so-called bullet aid only to schools represented by Democrats when Democrats held the Senate majority form 2008-2010. DeFrancisco said the Assembly's Democratic majority also had almost $10 million in the same funding this year, but chose to use it for teacher training centers in New York City, not for bullet aid to schools represented by Democrats.
Asked by Diaz if he felt any remorse for the action, DeFrancisco said: "I feel as much remorse now as you did when you sent all your discretionary funds to your districts."
"Believe me," DeFrancisco told Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan, "there was never any thought of providing money to the Democrat districts."
The bullet aid ranges from $5,000 to the North Greenbush schools in Rensselaer County to $425,000 for the Lockport schools and $275,000 in Niagara Falls in Western New York.