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Source: Newsday

LI would benefit from State Senate GOP takeover

BY ELIZABETH MOORE

Posted: June 9, 2009
Originally Published: June 8, 2009

Long Island is back in the driver's seat - at the very least, it's got a firm hand on the wheel again.

If Dean Skelos' stunning takeover of the New York State Senate survives a challenge, this region will once again enjoy the bargaining clout that comes of having a local delegation with seniority on key committees.

And that could help the GOP keep its grip on power here for years to come, as many of the region's interest groups have become convinced that Democratic control of the legislature may be great for New York City, but has been bad news for the Island.

"We feel like we've gone from being treated fairly to neglected, and now being abused," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who visited the Capitol hours before the coup Monday with Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island and about 30 other Long Island civic, union and environmental leaders, to draw attention to what they called a lack of state support for the region.

But Long Island Republican senators who were expected to retire were surely rethinking those plans last night - after all, consider the key chairmanships likely to return to their control: Owen Johnson (R- West Babylon) reliably brought home major funding as chairman of the all-powerful Finance Committee; Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) chaired higher education; Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), chaired environment; and Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) headed the Health Committee.

And some Long Island charities teetering on the brink of insolvency are likely to be cheering the Republican takeover, which came just as Democrats were preparing to divide the Senate's annual pork allotment in the form of "member item" grants. In the past, Republicans had been able to give out 10 times as much money as their Democratic peers, but this year, they were to share just $8.5 million of the Senate's $85-million allotment.

Most important, if the Republicans can hold on to power for the remainder of this year, it enhances their fundraising clout for the 2010 elections, said Lawrence Levy, executive director of Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies.