From Gotham Gazette:
Every year New York's state legislators get to distribute millions of dollars of member items, also disdainfully referred to as "pork," to groups across their districts. A mix of organizations benefit from the grants: Little Leagues, after school programs, food pantries, libraries and even curling clubs get their share of state money -- provided they enjoy the favor of their member of the member of the Assembly or State Senate. But this year some observers thought things might be different. With a huge state budget deficit and talk of fiscal restraint, some thought legislators might dial back the amount of member items they doled out.
Those observers might have been a bit naïve. Member items have been described as the lubricant that keeps Albany running. They allow legislators to curry favor in their districts, and the party leaders, who control how much money each member is able to hand out, use the power to reward, punish and control their members.