Various New York state senators have been on the defensive — or the offensive — since the media started reporting last week that several of them have been receiving money for positions they don’t hold. Five Republicans and three Democrats who vote with the GOP put in for these special stipends, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Committee chairs are entitled to extra payments that legislators call “lulus,” but the New York Times reported that this group of senators are merely vice-chairs. All week long, debate has gone back and forth whether they misrepresented their titles to Senate payroll officials, whether the law entitles them to stipends, and whether state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office technically issues the checks, should have caught the misnomer and declined to issue payments.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been conspicuously absent from the back-and-forth in Albany.
On Thursday, he broke his silence.
First, he tweaked DiNapoli, saying it was up to the comptroller to determine whether the payments are legal or illegal, something DiNapoli has denied is within his authority.
“I didn’t write the check,” Cuomo said. “It’s his decision, because he has the legal responsibility.”
A representative for DiNapoli responded: “The comptroller’s office is not a court of law. This issue needs to be decided by the Senate itself or the legal system.”
And then Cuomo turned his fire to an ethical problem he’s been complaining about for years: legislators holding other jobs.
“You can talk about expenses and stipends and lulus, etc. But you have a worse problem, frankly,” Cuomo said. “It’s the entire system of payment.”
Cuomo says people hire legislators as lawyers and consultants in order to influence their decisions. He’s proposed banning all outside income — and limiting campaign donations and increasing transparency. But critics say Cuomo isn’t willing to spend the political capital to enact the reforms. On Thursday,…