Saturday, April 16, 2011

Albany Pork and pay raise

The Traveling Pols
“There’s a lot of talk of reform in Albany,” said one capital insider. “But this looks like the ‘same old, same old.’”
High on the hog: Brooklyn pol’s 77G travel bill (NYP) Taxpayers shelled more than $77,000 for lodging and meals for one Brooklyn state senator — who was traveling on “legislative business. Sen. Velmanette Montgomery racked up more per-diem expenses than any other New York state senator over a 3 1/2-year period, records show.Montgomery billed the state 26 times — including $1,250.85 for a seven-day stint in Albany from March 24-30 of last year, records show. “I’m not talking to you about that. Bye,” Montgomery said when asked for comment. Another big spender was Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn), who billed the state for $75,022 in per-diem expenses — landing him third on the list at 73 percent above average.Sen. Diane Savino (D-SI) billed the state for $71,973, landing her in sixth place. “I never put in anything I’m not entitled to,” Savino said. “It’s an insult.”

Cuomo and Legislature's Orgy of Fundraising Before New Law
 Lawmakers scrambling to raise funds ahead of Cuomo’s promised campaign reform(NYP) 
The Governor’s Megabucks(NYT Ed) Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign is benefiting from the scandalous finance laws that he has vowed to reform.

Orgy of Fundraising Before New Law
 Lawmakers scrambling to raise funds ahead of Cuomo’s promised campaign reform(NYP)  

State lawmakers are scrambling to rake in as much cash as possible before Gov. Cuomo’s overhaul of campaign laws is enacted. Cuomo’s proposal would target Albany’s “pay-to-play” culture by limiting contributions fat cats and lobbyists can make to lawmakers. And now politicians are acting like pigs running to the trough.
At least 17 lawmakers, including party leader. Democratic Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos are hosting events Wednesday at Albany’s posh Fort Orange Club blocks from the Capitol. Also that evening, Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic leader and co-chair of the state Democratic Committee, hosts a party fund-raiser at the W hotel in Union Square. Bronx Democratic leader and Assemblyman Carl Heastie plans a dinner at Michaelangelo’s restaurant in The Bronx for the party’s housekeeping account. Newly elected Sen. George Latimer (D-Westchester) scheduled a breakfast bash in Albany. And Sen. Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) will shmooze donors at Macorix restaurant in his district. Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who is hosting a fund-raiser at the Fort Orange Club Feb. 4, denied there was a fund-raising stampede

Since Silver became speaker, there have been 5 govs, 6 Senate maj ldrs, 5 atty generals & 3 comptrollers
The Daily News separately noted Speaker Shelly Silver’s extensive history as an Albany kingpin: “Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week was selected to begin his 20th year as the chamber’s leader, bringing the Albany powerbroker ever closer to Oswald Heck’s record of 23 years as speaker. Just how unusual is such longevity? Consider that since Silver became speaker in 1994, there have been five governors, six Senate majority leaders, five state attorney generals and three state comptrollers.”* State lawmakers have not received a raise for well over a decade, but top staffers in the Assembly and Senate saw salary hikes – some of them quite large – over the past six months.

NYP Tries to Stop Albany Pols From Raising Their Pay By Exposing Abuses in Per Diem Pay

Albany Pols Collect Per Diems When They’re Not There

Politicians caught collecting Albany per diems when they're not there(NYP)Claiming she spent a marathon 12 consecutive days in Albany on “legislative business,” Queens Assemblywoman Vivian Cook pocketed $171 for each reported overnight stay — a total $2,197 in taxpayer money from March 21 to April 1, 2010. The Legislature was in session just three of those days — and Cook was absent for all three, records show. 

The per diem system grants state senators and Assembly members $165 a night, reduced from $171 last year, for food and lodging. Lawmakers who stay in apartments or second homes in Albany can still collect it. If they don’t spend the night, they get a $61 per diem. Those who drive can also get 55.5 cents a mile, plus repayment for tolls. Taxi, train and plane rides are reimbursed. Some lawmakers submit travel receipts; many don’t.  Assembly and court documents show that Boyland in 2010 claimed multiple per diems for work in Albany on days he met with undercover FBI agents in Brooklyn and Manhattan to discuss bribes.

what every lawmaker should tell a journo when asked about spending public $. "I don’t think I have to give you proof."


Senate Dems Want Their Pork member Items

State Senate Dems Enraged After Cuomo Cuts Their Member Item Funds(NY1) * OLD PORK OR NEW? CUOMO, LEGISLATURE SPLIT ON DEFINITION: All the money for community theater groups, film festivals and little leagues Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed yesterday was, by the governor's definition, new pork barrel spending by the Legislature, and therefore had to go. But lawmakers would beg to differ. Cuomo trims more than $642,000 in pork from state budge. 13 Assembly member items axed. Spox: "Let's keep this in perspective. It's $55,000 out of a $132 billion budget. It's not even a bacon bit." * Legislators contended the spending was simply a re-authorization of previously promised money. (C&S) * Cuomo did approve some member items.

What Pork?
  Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to veto some member items in the budget, after we heard there were NO member items in the budget? Cuomo to issue 129 line-item vetoes in budget, including 122 for new member items. *Cuomo Will Veto $640K Worth Of Pork (YNN) * Sources who have seen the list of 's line item vetoes say 2/3 of the money is in Senate Dem districts* Cuomo on acceptable and unacceptable pork(TU) * Cuomo’s New Member Items Defined (Video Added)

 Albany Saves Its Pork

The Legislature gets to keep its $100 million worth of capital projects cash from prior years that Cuomo tried to appropriate for his regional economic development councils. 

Albany Cut Hospitals and Schools But Kept the Member Items Pork
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wants Cuomo to stop legislative leaders from divvying up $32 million from slush funds for member items, which it says violates budget rules:

No More Integrity

Dozen staffers axed at Integrity Commission(TU)


NYS Half Million $$$ Political Junkets
State lawmakers claimed more than $527,544 in travel and per diem payments since the legislative session ended June 24, with Sen. Eric Adams at the top of the list with $16,256, the Daily News says



Going Against the Culture and Nature of Albany
Midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature. Cuomo said he won’t even consider a legislative pay raise in a post-election special session unless the “people’s business” is being done by legislators. 

Pay for Good Play
Cuomo ‘raises’ doubts on pols’ pay-hike plea(NYP) Forget about a state legislative pay raise this year. That is, unless lawmakers boost New York’s minimum wage, decriminalize pot possession during stop-and-frisk procedures, and tackle other “reforms,” Gov. Cuomo signaled yesterday. * Per-diem pocket-padding(NYP Ed) We’re not kidding: As last Sunday’s Post reported, state lawmakers routinely bill taxpayers for “per diem” payments — reimbursements they can get for the cost of sleeping overnight in Albany while on official business. Problem is, nobody seems to know what

“official business” actually means — so lawmakers have been putting in for cash even when they’re not in Albany. The Post encourages Cuomo to end a “per diem” policy that allows state lawmakers to bill for reimbursements for spending the night in Albany on official business while they are often elsewhere * The News roots for Cuomo to “squeeze” state legislators in order to get the legislation he wants in exchange for his support of a pay raise * Pay fight in Albany(NYDN) * The Cuomo Condundrum: Searching for Andy on the Campaign Trail(NYO) * That would include a minimum wage increase and decriminalization of possession of small amounts of pot, among other things that were on Cuomo’s to-do list this year but didn’t pass before lawmakers left town in June.

Cuomo may push to end the per diems in return for a legislative pay raise, aides say
“I didn’t move to sunny Albany to own a home,” said Manhattan Assemblyman Herman Farrell Jr., who has a house blocks from the Capitol worth about $160,000
NY lawmakers get taxpayer funds to sleep in second homes in Albany (NYP) When politicians snooze, taxpayers don’t just lose — their cash goes to support legislators’ real-estate investments. New York lawmakers who sleep over in their own Albany-area second homes rake in $165 a night if they claim they must stay over for official business. * A bargain for Cuomo  (NYDN Ed) Gov must demand arbitration reform before okaying pay raise for Legislature * Cuomo's “'broadband politics' approach leaves only the extreme left and right untouched."(NYDN)

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli revealed a broad probe into the per-diem payouts after The Post reported questionable vouchers.Government watchdogs say the per diems are abused. “It’s an honor system. That’s the problem,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union. “There’s a lack of oversight and verification.” The per diems -- $165 for sleeping over, and $61 for visiting without spending the night -- are even paid on days when the Legislature is not in session. In one week alone, The Post found, Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Queens) pocketed $2,197 for claiming she spent 12 consecutive nights on “legislative business.” The Assembly was in session three of those days and Cook was absent for all three. Brooklyn Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., who is under indictment, claimed multiple per diems on days he met with undercover FBI agents in Brooklyn and Manhattan to discuss bribes, records show.  Democrat Boyland traveling under cloud - New York Daily News * FBI Taped Boyland In Brooklyn While He Claimed Albany Expenses ...

The Daily News Says the Leader of Albany
Are the architects of the incumbent-protection racket that protects the good and the bad from competition in a one-party town
Like the rest of New York’s lawmakers, Lopez will be able to claim the imprimatur of the voters as evidence that he is a member in equal good standing with everyone else. He will be an embarrassment to himself and to the body, but that’s what Silver and the rest deserve.

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