The legislative strategy initiated by Assemblyman Hawley and Senator Robach is not without flaws. They continue to have difficulty getting the referendum bill out of committee, despite Assemblyman Hawley’s efforts contacting the Speaker about this issue. If the bill eventually makes it out of committee, it currently seems unlikely that they would have the votes needed to pass it. Even if this strategy succeeds, it will likely take a long time. For upstate citizens who feel economically and politically marginalized, this time frame is not desirable. However, there are also upsides to this plan. A legislatively based strategy may have more national legitimacy given its political, top-down nature, which could be helpful if gets to the point where a 51st state will be added to the union.

Response by Other Legislators

Despite the bills introduced by Assemblyman Hawley and Senator Robach, upstate New York secession is not currently being discussed on a serious scale in the state legislature. There have been few vocal supporters or opponents.  However, some have expressed limited interest in secession.  In this clip, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin discusses secession as something to be seriously considered and studied, especially as upstate continues to lose population and political influence. His argument is similar to arguments made by Assemblyman Hawley and Senator Robach.

On the other hand, some legislators have spoken of the potential dangers and challenges of secession. In this statement, Assemblyman William A. Barclay points out some of the practical difficulties of achieving statehood as well as financial and political issues. His comments on tax revenue are directly contrary to Assemblyman Hawley’s argument that upstate’s problem is with excessive expenditures, not lack of revenue. Assemblyman Barclay also points out the possibility of upstate losing political influence at the national level. This would seem to undermine the point of secession to a degree, insofar as the upstate secession movement has been prompted by feelings of not being heard or represented.

“The partitioning of New York into two separate states procedurally would be challenging because the United States Constitution, pursuant to Article 4, Section 3, requires that both the New York State Legislature and the United States Congress to consent to the formation of two new states. Bills that would simply put the question up for a non-binding referendum in New York State have been introduced at various times in the state legislature. However, they have never passed or even gotten to the floors of the respective houses for a vote. If these bills cannot get passed, it is difficult to see how legislation that would actually provide consent for the partition could get passed in Albany. Moreover, getting congressional support for such an action also would be an uphill fight in light of the fact that drives for statehood in other parts of the country (e.g., Puerto Rico, D.C. etc.) have failed.

Even if the partition of New York State into two states could be accomplished politically, there are real questions whether such a separation would be beneficial for Upstaters. If Upstate were successful in separating from New York City and its suburbs, one the first challenges for the new state would be financial because much of our state revenues derive from Downstate New York due to the areas larger population and higher salaries. While all New Yorkers pay high taxes and are over-taxed, due to population, the taxes downstate New Yorkers (New York City and its suburbs) pay make up a larger share of state revenue. This is not surprising in light of the fact that the state’s largest source of non-federal revenue comes from personal income taxes which is a progressive system (which means those who earn more income pay higher income taxes). Because the state’s wealthiest live downstate, naturally they are paying more to the state. Further, New York’s financial stability heavily relies on Wall Street. If New York were to split, Upstate would lose those monies. Second, as a state with a large population, New York has a lot of clout on the national level. Splitting into two states would dilute this influence which could be harmful, particularly on regional issues where having New York speak in one voice is critical.”

— Assemblyman Barclay

Use of Social Media and Accessibility to Constituents

Perhaps one problem related to garnering support for this legislative strategy is that it seems that it is not being discussed seriously or on a broad platform. For instance, Senator Robach has an active Twitter and Facebook but does not typically post about secession, though he discusses issues closely related to it. If social media were harnessed as a way to promote awareness of the potential referendum on secession, his constituents could get involved and voice their support, potentially impacting the bill’s path through the legislature. In general, more dialogue between upstate legislators and constituents could encourage awareness and feedback on the referendum on secession, perhaps proving the need for such a referendum to the legislature at large.