Yesterday afternoon, the Times Union’s blog Capitol Confidential detailed how the Assembly minority during the Pataki years received money to help compensate for the fact that they were allocated less for staff and resources than their majority counterparts. This year, though, Assembly Speaker Silver increased the level of funding for the minority conference from $40,000 per member to $100,000, which would make up for the money they used to receive from Governor Pataki.
While we appreciate the steps Speaker Silver has taken toward more equal allocation of funds, it is still unacceptable that members of the minority, who are elected from districts with the same population as members of the majority, are not guaranteed an equal allocation of staff and resources to represent their constituents.
It would not even be sufficient for a proportional amount of the budget for staff and resources to be allocated to the majority and minority conferences to be distributed to the individual members by the party leaders. While this would introduce a much needed element of fairness, it would still not ensure that resources are distributed based on objective criteria rather than loyalty to leadership.
The base allocation of funds—representing the bulk of office and staff allowances for legislators—should be distributed equally among the members, regardless of party or loyalty. Extra funds for members with leadership positions should be small compared to the base amount received by each member. Most importantly, the formula for member allocations should be codified in the chamber rules.