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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics has lifted the veil on how legislators make their outside income and, perhaps, where their loyalties lie. Legislators all make a salary of $79,500 a year for their work and are reimbursed for travel. Many also earn stipends for their positions on committees.
The filings drawing the most interest from journalists and advocates are from legislative leaders who are also known to work for law firms — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference head Jeff Klein.
According to his filings, Silver makes at least $350,000 and up to $450,000 a year as council at Weiz & Luxenberg. Silver has long been criticized for acting in the interest of trial lawyers.
Silver was recently attacked for killing changes to the citys' scaffolding law that would have allowed juries to consider whether the action of workers had any impact on accidents. Current law puts the onus on the shoulders of the building owners and contractors. The changes were seen as detrimental to trial lawyers. Skelos pulls down $150,000 to $250,000 a year as council for Ruskin Moscou Faltischek. The law firm recently set up a lobbying branch.
Klein earns between $50,000 and $75,000 a year in guaranteed payments from his law firm Klein Calderoni & Santucci LLP.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg got personal yesterday with state legislators he blames for failing to enact a speed camera program around schools that he says would stop children from being hit and killed by speeding cars. After the next tragedy Bloomberg suggested: “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your state senator and ask why they allowed that child to be killed?” Bloomberg named Sens. Martin Golden, Dean Skelos and Simcha Felder as legislators parents should call to complain.“Maybe you want to give those phone numbers to the parents of the child when a child is killed,” Bloomberg said. “It would be useful so that the parents can know exactly who’s to blame.” The speed camera plan was in the Assembly's budget plan but did not make it to the final product. When approached on Sunday during budget votes Golden told the Gazette "I have no idea," when asked why speed cameras weren't part of the budget. He told The New York Times on Wednesday that other areas that use speed cameras have found them "unreliable." Republican spokesman Scott Reif issued a statement saying that, "no one has fought harder or longer" to promote safety in New York City.
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Legislators say they expect to vote on a state budget by next week making for an extra-early budget. Of course lots could happen between then and now but legislative leaders continue to meet today and have hashed out their spending targets.
The joint budget conference announced they have agreed to $550 million in "table target" spending. Other targets include $60 million for health spending, $70 million for higher education, $40 million for mental hygiene and $35 million for human services.
Other parts of the budget remain elusive. It is unclear whether casino siting and a minimum wage increase will be in the budget. Advocates have swamped Albany online and in the Twitterverse targeting Sens. Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein to raise the minimum wage. Cuomo supports a $8.75 hike, while the Assembly has passed a $9 hike. The Senate budget supports an unspecified wage hike that would be phased in in installments.
A number of advocates have been focusing on Klein specifically because he and the Independent Democrats joined with Republicans to create a coalition while saying they support a minimum wage hike. Republicans have been vocal in their opposition to a wage hike.
“The time for excuses is over. Given the tremendous support by voters, community, faith, labor and business leaders, the minimum wage should have been increased last year," said Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action in a statement. "A majority of State Senators want to join the Assembly in raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, with indexing. Sen. Klein has to show that his power arrangement agreement is something more than a charade to thwart the democratic will of voters and to distribute patronage to the minority Republicans and their IDC enabler."