A cap on private income for state lawmakers is the “clearest and cleanest” way to reform New York’s ethics laws, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
In an interview with WNYC-FM in Manhattan, Cuomo made the case for a congressional-style limit on state lawmakers, capping their maximum outside income at 15 percent of their state salary.
The state constitution considers New York’s 213 lawmakers part-time, meaning they can hold down outside jobs on top of their legislative gig, which pays a base salary of $79,500 a year. But the issue has frequently been at the center of scandals involving lawmakers, including the conviction last year of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat found guilty of disguising bribes and kickbacks as outside income.
Cuomo included the cap proposal as part of his ethics-reform plan, which he unveiled Wednesday during his State of the State address.
“The single clearest and cleanest ethics reform, I believe Brian, would be to change the entire model and go to the congressional model,” Cuomo told host Brian Lehrer.
He continued: “Does a person retain you and pay you for your private-sector skill, or are they paying you for your access in the public sphere? That conflict is where you get into trouble, and I’m saying eliminate the conflict. And you can eliminate it the way that Congress eliminated it.”
The base salary for congressional representatives is $174,000 a year.
Cuomo, who was paid at least $700,000 in advance for his 2014 memoir, included the proposal as part of his multi-part ethics plan unveiled during his State of the State address Wednesday. His proposal, which only applies to lawmakers, would prohibit advance fees for book deals but allow royalty payments, the Times Union of Albany reported.
Some lawmakers have been cool to proposals to eliminate or limit outside income, including Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, who told reporters Wednesday he has issues with the congressional model.
“One of the facts that has happened with the congressional model is you have a lot more millionaires in Congress,” Flanagan said. “There was a spike, an increase in people who are extraordinarily wealthy. I’m not sure that that’s the best interest of any state.”
Cuomo and legislative leaders, including Flanagan, will negotiate a state budget agreement ahead of the April 1 deadline to have a spending plan in place. Cuomo’s ethics reform proposals were included in his $145 billion budget plan, which he also unveiled Wednesday.