ALBANY, NY - The New York State Senate spent the later part of 2015 and the early part of this year on a shopping spree.
A new report shows Senators spent almost $2 million on new furniture for their Albany offices.
That’s an average of about $30,000 per Senator.
“Typically when we check through data on legislative expenditures, we try and see outliers, things that aren’t in there normally or things that are a bit out of the ordinary,” said Tim Hoefer, Executive Director of the Empire Center, an Albany based think tank which produced the report.
“One could ask if, with limited tax dollars, is this the best use of those dollars? And are we judiciously spending this money so that taxpayers are getting the best bang for the buck?”
The answer to that specific question is not entirely clear from the report, which lists how much was spent with various vendors, but does not break down things much further from there.
"We haven’t seen the invoices specifically, so we don't know how much they paid per piece or how much furniture they got," Hoefer said.
But we do know what happened to some of the old stuff.
Senator Tim Kennedy (D- Buffalo) says none of his old furniture went to waste.
"It was either reused in my district office in Buffalo, or was donated to a non-profit that serves our country's veterans and active-duty military," Kennedy said in a statement.
Senate sources tell us the money, coming from a budget line called the "maintenance and operations fund" is pretty spent at the discretion of the Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
And Kennedy insists further, "the decision to purchase new office furniture was unilaterally made by the Senate Majority.”
Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R- Amherst) is a member of is in that majority, but apparently not in agreement with the spending for new furniture, which he condemned in a statement as “an unnecessary, wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars."
Flanagan said last fall he would be giving Senate offices a makeover because their furniture was 50 years old, mismatched and outdated. A staffer in one lawmaker's office locally claimed rank and file senators really had no say in the matter.
State agencies, under the state’s procurement guidelines, are generally required to buy items such as office furniture under a state bidding program.
Furniture in particular is often purchased (although not necessarily at a lower cost) through Corcraft, which is an agency which offers goods produced by state prison inmates.
However, a spokesperson for the State Office of General Services, which administers state purchasing, told WGRZ-TV that the NYS Legislature has its own procurement guidelines and is not required to follow the same process as state agencies.