For the second year in a row, the topic of ethics reform is being used as a bartering chip to determine how over $140 billion of our tax dollars will be spent.
Last year the governor bartered with GOP Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and IDC Leader Jeff Klein to shut down an ethics investigation, known as the Moreland Commission. It was only after they shut it down that they finally got around to working on the budget. This was done in a closed-door meeting without input from other members of the legislature.
This year the governor is bartering with ethics once again. Governor Cuomo has even stated that he’s willing to delay passage of the budget beyond the March 31st deadline if the legislature does not agree to his proposed ethics reforms.
As taxpayers, we should be questioning the ethics of using “ethics reform” to negotiate the serious business of how our money will be managed. And more importantly we should remind our elected representatives that they have the power to pass ethics reform right now. There’s absolutely no reason to tie this important issue to the budget, and there’s no legitimate reason to delay meaningful ethics reform any longer.
Every member of the state legislature should be demanding and working to pass these needed measures now. Any official convicted of abusing the public’s trust should be stripped of their tax- payer funded pensions, and the campaign finance laws must be changed so that LLCs and big corporations can no longer buy and sell the outcomes of our elections.
The New York State Legislature has the ability to solve these pressing issues today. Failure to do so could lead to a late budget, which would place important funding for entities such as school districts, cities, towns, villages, and public health services in jeopardy. We should not tolerate such irresponsible actions, and we should insist that our government seize this historic opportunity to pass truly effective ethics reform now. Then they must direct their full attention to passing an on-time state budget that provides solutions to reducing the cost of living and doing business in our communities.
Former NY State Senator
Dutchess and Putnam Counties