Watchdog Groups Urge Governor and Legislature to Limit Lawmakers’ Outside Income During 2020 Legislative Session
Restrictions Will Reduce Corruption Risk After Courts Reject Pay Commission Authority
Government watchdog groups Reinvent Albany, Citizens Union, Common Cause, League of Women Voters New York State, and the New York Public Interest Research Group sent a letter today to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to limit lawmakers’ outside income during the 2020 legislative session.
Last December, the 2018 New York State Compensation Committee restricted outside income earned by lawmakers to 15 percent of their legislative base salary, or $18,000, consistent with limits for members of the United States Congress.
However, state courts ruled the Compensation Commission did not have the authority to limit outside income, even while lawmakers received a raise to $120,000 from $79,500. Attorney General Letitia James is no longer pursuing appeals of the different cases involving outside income restrictions.
The groups believe nothing is stopping the Governor and legislature from acting to restrict lawmakers’ outside income to help reduce corruption and restore the public trust.
The state legislature has been plagued by too many instances of corruption and conflicts of interest related to outside income. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former State Senate President Dean Skelos were both convicted for crimes in which official acts resulted in personal gain related to their own outside jobs or their families’.
The Compensation Commission concluded that restricting outside income “will eliminate both the perception of and any actual conflicts of interest” and “eliminates the possibility for the public to question whether the citizens of this State are being properly served.”
The groups agree and urge the Governor and legislature to pass congressional-like restrictions on the outside income of state legislators.