ALBANY, N.Y. — Tension between upstate and downstate has been brewing for decades, and the blatant liberalism of Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo is throwing fuel on the fire.
Some New York conservatives are proposing to cut up the state into upstate and downstate largely self-governing regions.
The November 2014 elections showed how strong feelings can run even in a normally blue state such as New York. Here, the more conservative upstate region overwhelmingly voted for Republican-Conservative Rob Astorino for governor. But upstate was trumped mostly by the strongly liberal and densely populated New York City and downstate counties. Cuomo was re-elected governor for a second term.
A number of disappointed conservatives reportedly flocked to help push a proposal that would divide New York into upstate and downstate autonomous regions while retaining a token state government â€” New Amsterdam and New York respectively.
The project John Bergener, who leads the New Amsterdam project, said currently the New Amsterdam project volunteers are encouraging local and state legislators to support the move, but, failing that, the people of the state have a right to vote in 2017 for a constitutional convention. Bergener is co-coordinator of the Capital Region chapter of the Upstate Conservative Coalition, which launched the website http://www.newamsterdamny.org/.
Among the disputed issues, are gun rights (the widely unpopular SAFE Act), the state economy and regulations, Common Core, Cuomo’s fracking moratorium, school choice, abortion and LGBT issues. See the recent story:Â NY Gov Boycotts North Carolina Over Anti-LGBT Law.
Many upstate residents are upset over the recent refusal by Cuomo to lift a 6-year-old de facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas. The industry is booming in neighboring Pennsylvania but been blockedÂ in an upstate region, which is struggling from the loss of manufacturing jobs.
The Cuomo administration is waiting until next year for the results of a state health study, but Bergener told the Washington Times recently that those in the Southern Tier and other areas that would benefit from oil and gas drilling suspect a political motivation.
“The theory is that our current governor doesn’t want upstate to grow because then you’d get more Republicans,” Bergener said.
Upstate conservatives also were steamed over the governor’s Jan. 17 declaration that pro-lifers have no place in the state of New York.
The rationale of the New Amsterdam project is that upstate, which constitutes most of the state, is generally conservative with moderate liberalism mixed in and consists of small- to medium-size communities in rural and suburban settings. Downstate, which, in the plan, includes New York City in a total of nine counties, is much more liberal. So New Amsterdam would include all counties except New York, Westchester, Suffolk, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Nassau and Rockland.
In a nutshell, the plans involves a token state government limited to a 3 percent sales tax with an executive, legislature and judiciary and such agencies and laws that would apply statewide. Each autonomous region would have the same three-part structure as the state and agencies that would deal with three-fourth of the laws. Regional legislators also would be in the state legislature.
Adoption of the plan requires amending the state constitution either by the state legislature passing the amendment twice, with an election of legislators in between, and putting it before the voters in 2017, or the people voting for a constitutional convention in 2017, as they are entitled to do by law.
Bergener said the two-regions proposal would be much easier than splitting New York into two states, which would require an act of Congress.
“The main rationale is economics because upstate is being killed” by high taxation, overregulation, unfunded mandates, bureaucracy and duplication, Bergener said. That includes regulations which apply to one region but not to the other, or are outdated.
“What we are trying to do is to give more power to the people at the local level,” he said.
Upstate is less prosperous and populous than the NYC region. About 7 million of the state’s 19 million residents would be in the proposed New Amsterdam.
“It’s an unusual idea,” Bergener told the Times. “I’ve searched and I can’t find anyone else who’s tried this before. So we’re the first.”