A movement grows to upsize the Gem State.
New York, New York
It’s time to split the Empire State into three autonomous regions.
The State of New York contains a tremendously diverse population divided among highly differentiated regions. Most of the state consists of small- to medium-sized communities set in a rural and suburban climate, generally marked by moderately conservative values. Meanwhile, the counties that make up New York City are significantly more left-leaning politically. The other downstate counties and Long Island are also unique from both upstate and NYC.
While splitting New York into separate states appeals to many who dislike the current composition of the Empire State, the political reality is that partitioning New York into three autonomous regions would be easier to achieve and is more realistic. Forming legally-constituted regions does not require an act of Congress, just an amendment to the New York State Constitution.
There is a significant distance between the concerns of cities and rural areas of the state. New autonomous regions would have the ability to develop economic programs that would best benefit their individual needs. Local government and school districts would be freed from state-level unfunded mandates that increase local property taxes and place undue burden on local residents and districts. Each region could levy taxes for the purposes and benefits of its residents; having smaller regions would increase spending accountability.
New York’s three self-governing, autonomous regions would be the New York region, consisting of the counties Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens, and Richmond; the Montauk region, consisting of the counties Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester; and the New Amsterdam region, consisting of the counties of Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, St Lawrence, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.
As the State of New York would be divided into autonomous regions, not a new state, the more expensive concerns of state governments would be dealt with at the residual state government level. This new state government will keep an elected governor, lieutenant-governor, and comptroller. This government’s lawmaking ability would be limited to rules pertaining to the executive branch, Indian affairs, the National Guard, retirement and pension systems, the judiciary, and other general matters. It will be a government kept small by limiting its taxing power to a 3% sales tax; otherwise all taxing power will be transferred to the regions.
All regional senators and assembly members will also comprise the state senate and assembly; their votes will be weighted by district population to comply with Reynolds v. Sims and the principle of “one person, one vote.” Each region will elect a regional governor and other executive officers; the regional governor will appoint most regional officials, including an Education Commissioner.
The Autonomous Regions Plan enables New York state employees to move entirely to respective regional level positions overseen by each region’s governing body. The token state government would exist to dispense pensions, as well as deal with federal and interstate matters. The pension system will remain at the state level in its present form. The Metro North and Long Island railways will remain at the state level as well, to support inter-region commuting. New York City will retain ownership of its water system and gain control of its subways.
The New York or Montauk regions will continue to pay for their residents attending New Amsterdam’s regional colleges, and vice versa. Some prisons in the New Amsterdam region will be owned by the New York region or the Montauk region. The judicial system would be affected by such division into autonomous regions. Most of the powers of the Court of Appeals powers will be transferred to newly-created Regional Superior Courts, which will have final ruling on its region’s laws. Felonies will only be enacted under regional law. Judicial departments will be adjusted so they do not cross regional boundaries.
In all cases, regional division would return power to the people of New York State. And, significantly, the plan is more than a thought bubble: the bills have already been introduced in the NY State Legislature. A04446 and S4541 propose a NYS constitutional amendment to divide the state into three autonomous regions. The amendment is designed to take effect automatically when approved by the voters. This is an idea whose time has come.