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Tough questions for your State legislature candidates

October 5, 2010

Do you want tough questions for candidates? How about these?

Loss of pay for legislators every day the budget is late, (presently, well not quite)

It is outrageous that members of the New York State Legislature are paid $79,500 per year even when they cannot pass a budget on time. 19 out of the last 20 budgets have been passed late, including this year’s budget which was passed 125 days late.

In any other job except in Albany if you cannot complete your job on time you do not get paid.  At present legislators pay can be suspended during this time, but once complete they then receive their accumulated pay. This isn’t good enough! There were some legislators this year that did not communicate with the Governor for weeks at a time regarding the budget, facing a loss of pay would have forced legislators to focus on approving a budget.

Take Democrat Sam Hoyt from Erie County for example who missed an important meeting in Albany that took place between legislators and the Governor to discuss the budget, because he was attending a $1,000 a plate political fundraiser in New York City. Sadly we need to hit legislators in their paychecks to force them to concentrate on their jobs and not politics.

Elimination of Legislative Stipends 

While it is shocking that members of the legislature are paid $79,500 per year even when they cannot complete the task of passing a budget, it gets even worse, because on top of that high salary legislators also receive stipends. Stipends are doled out by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of New York City as a reward for legislators who support what Speaker Silver wants. In exchange for voting with Silver 98% of the time Hoyt receives a stipend of $14,500, for a total salary of $94,000. Huh, really!

To reform Albany stipends need to be eliminated as the lure of additional compensation controlled by Speaker Silver eliminates the ability of legislators to be independent. If you do not stay in the good graces of the Speaker you will lose your stipend and that quite frankly ought to be outright illegal.

Recall of Legislators 

26 states allow the public the ability to recall state elected officials. New York State does not currently allow state elected officials to be recalled. The recall process typically works by allowing the public to file a certain number of required petition signatures requesting a recall election to be held.

Having a recall provision would keep legislators focused on representing the public and not special interests.

Term Limits For Legislators 

15 states have term limits for state legislators, New York is not one of those states. Ironically, more state elected officials leave office due to scandal or retirement than by losing an election. The perks and power of incumbency (government paid for mailings, special interest campaign contributions), allow most elected officials to remain in office for life. The same faces comfortable with a system that protects them results in the continuation of the status quo in New York. We need major changes in how New York government functions and the only way to bring about change is a continuous turn-over of fresh faces and new ideas.

Disclosure Requirements Regarding The Outside Financial Activities Of Legislators

Speaking of “Shady Sheldon”, what an outrage. No wonder he has resisted ethics reform that would improve and require disclosure requirements for outside activities by legislators:
NY POST: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s firm gets cut of 9/11-suit payouts. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has spun the 9/11 lawsuits into gold. Ground Zero workers are on the hook to pay steep interest on money their lawyers borrowed from a group of investors that include Silver and his law partners, The Post has learned.  Silver’s partners at the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm are top board members of a business that quietly loaned money at 18 percent a year to the law firm representing some 9,800 Ground Zero workers with toxic-illness suits against the city. Full story

PAY-GO Budget Rules

The current fight with the Indian Nations really boils down to one thing. The Democrats in control of the Governors office and both State houses enacted a budget with revenues written in based on collecting taxation of tobacco sales by the Nations. It’s one thing to base spending on projected revenues like sales tax, which can be forecasted fairly accurately, but to base spending on revenues you not only cannot forecast, but likely will not even realize at all, is irresponcible at best, and ought to be outright illegal at worst.

Campaign Finance Reform (forget about the Fed, we’re talking State)

Democrats find trouble in $tore. State Senate Democrats have bowed to pressure from furious labor leaders and returned a controversial $15,000 campaign contribution they received from Walmart. The action came just days after last week’s disclosure in The Post that the Democrats had accepted the cash from the union-resisting Arkansas-based retail chain, which is believed to be interested in putting its first city store in Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson’s Brooklyn district. Sampson controls the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.  “I can confirm that the money was returned. That’s as far as I’m going to go on it,” said Democratic spokesman Eric Blankenbaker.

Proving once again that in NY the tail often wags the dog, something must be done about this.


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