Voters: NY Legislators Should Stick to $79,500-Salaried Posts, Nix Outside Jobs

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Most New York voters say it's time for the state's 213 legislators to be considered full-time, with their current $79,500 base salary unchanged and outside earnings prohibited, according to new poll released Monday.

The Siena poll shows the overwhelming majority of voters, 89 percent, think corruption is a serious problem in Albany. Two-thirds say it's a serious problem among legislators from their own area.

Several government reform advocates back curbing legislators' outside income as one way of addressing corruption and conflicts of interest. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed limiting it to 15 percent of state pay, similar to the limit on Congress.

"New Yorkers' confidence in state government in Albany hovers at historic low levels," Siena pollster Steve Greenberg said. "The Senate and the Assembly are each viewed favorably by fewer than 40 percent of voters."

The issue was highlighted with last year's indictments of two of Albany's most powerful legislators. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were accused by federal prosecutors of peddling their influence for personal gain. Both were convicted at trials and are pursuing appeals.

Greenberg said corruption has been an issue on New York voters' minds for a while, though in the latest poll it rose to fourth place among their priorities. It's behind education, jobs and taxes, but now ahead of infrastructure, health care and criminal justice.

The poll shows 60 percent support for making legislators full time and banning outside employment, with 34 percent supporting the current approach of considering them part-time. Even if considered full-time with outside employment banned, 55 percent oppose giving lawmakers a pay raise, especially voters upstate and in downstate suburbs, with 42 percent in favor of raises.

Majorities also backed various anti-corruption proposals, including limiting legislators' outside incomes to 15 percent, closing the campaign finance loophole for limited liability company donations and stripping pensions from lawmakers convicted of crimes in office.

Half say the recent scandals make them less likely to re-elect their state legislators.

"New Yorkers are so disgusted with their elected officials that half are ready to make a clean sweep of them," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York. It's also an opportunity for legislators to adopt the reforms and win trust back, she said.

The legislative session generally runs from January through June, though lawmakers keep their district offices open all year. All face re-election this year.

The poll last week of 865 registered voters across the state has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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