In response to a Qunnipiac poll showing that nearly 80 percent of New Yorkers think that the state government is broken, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed sympathy for voters’ sentiments toward the Senate and dodged any blame for his own chamber.
It would be an audacious move for a man with a 28% approval rating on any day, but it’s particularly interesting that Silver would choose to slam the Senate today, when the New York Times reports that several members of the state legislature – mostly in the Assembly – collect pensions on top of their salaries by retiring for a single day at the end of their terms before a new term, and a new salary, begins.
Loopholes in the law exempt lawmakers elected before 1995 and those who switch chambers from restrictions on collecting pensions while working, and elected officials are not required to get waivers required of other state employees to draw on pensions while earning more than $30,000 a year. A bill introduced last year to close the loophole languished in committee.
Even pension reforms that seem like easy political sells aren’t doing so well. A bill by Assemblyman Bob Reilly and Senator Liz Krueger denying pensions to public officials convicted of crimes (an issue near and dear to many recent members of the legislature) can’t get past committees in either chamber.
The Senate sideshow showed how spectacularly bad things can get, but it’s important to remember that it was a symptom of a much more widespread disease. The good news, as demonstrated by the Quinnipiac poll, is that voters recognize that we have a problem – even if Silver doesn’t.