PEEKSKILL, NY -- Democratic State Senate candidate Justin Wagner, D, Croton-on-Hudson, criticized his opponent, incumbent Republican Greg Ball, R,C-Patterson, Wednesday morning for Ball's alleged use of taxpayer-funded mailings.
Wagner claimed at a news conference in the city that Ball spent $108,903 of taxpayer funds on bulk postage mailers from April to September of 2011, which would make Ball the third-biggest spender statewide among the 62 state senators.
“While New York’s schools and infrastructure have faced severe budget cuts, Senator Ball has spent thousands of our hard-earned tax dollars on campaign literature telling us how great of a job he is doing," Wagner said. "These are funds that could have gone to hiring new teachers, construction workers or state troopers. Instead, the only job these mailings attempt to protect is Senator Ball’s.”
Wagner said Ball's taxpayer-funded mailers often contained very little substance, and instead had large color pictures of the Senator himself. Wagner also accused Ball of sending different messages to different citizens in an attempt to tell citizens what they want to hear.
For example, Wagner said, a taxpayer-funded mailer was sent to registered Conservative Party members boasting of Ball’s pro-life voting record and his vote against marriage equality; while registered Democrats in a different part of the district didn't receive that mailing -- and in some instances were sent a mailer from Ball on his environmental record, with no mention of his conservative positions on social issues.
“These campaign-style mailers aren’t just wasteful spending; they are exactly what is wrong with politics," Wagner said. "On the taxpayer's dime, Senator Ball is telling one group of people one thing and then sending a completely different message to another group. Taxpayer-funded mail is not supposed to be campaign literature.”
Wagner is calling for a cut in spending on taxpayer-funded mailers by 50 percent and also wants to require a disclosure on mailers, in large and bold type, that the mailing was paid for with tax dollars. He also wants to prohibit any mailing by state politicians at public expense three months prior to an election -- and hopes to eliminate campaign-style mailings.
“Senator Ball’s spending problem demonstrates the need for reform in the process by which legislators can send taxpayer-funded mail," Wagner said. "I’m proposing a simple plan to cut spending on these mailers in half, require more disclosure about the cost and distribution of these mailers, and remove the campaign-style practices.”
Ball's press secretary Joe Bachmeier released a statement in response to Wagner's comments, in which he said the mailings were not a major issue.
"There will be plenty of time for campaigning, and the use of government mail to communicate with constituents is a non issue, right now the Senator is focused on cutting taxes and creating jobs. Our mail alerts seniors on tax exemptions, informs veterans to sign up for benefits, helps not-for-profits spread awareness, and is all within an allotted budget," Bachmeier said.