Inaction On Pension Reform Inexcusable

Last year taxpayers spent more than $530,000 to fund the pensions of 14 public officials convicted of felonies. Despite failing to uphold their duties to constituents, these individuals are still able to cash retirement checks funded by taxpayers.   
 
It is mind boggling that this is still the case in 2015. It is even more bewildering that after years of proposals and talk of reform, legislation that would strip corrupt public officials of their pensions is still on hold.
                                                                                      
LAST-MINUTE MANEUVERING PROLONGS WAIT FOR REFORM
                   
Pension forfeiture legislation was included in the budget last month, but the Majority inexplicably pulled the measure at the 11th hour. Despite assurances from the Assembly Majority that the bill would be considered shortly after, there has been no movement toward a constitutional amendment to take away pensions from convicted legislators. No bill has moved to the Assembly floor and excuses abound.
 
The Senate already passed a bill to accomplish this much-needed ethics reform, and yet we are still needlessly waiting in the Assembly. The public deserves to trust its representatives and with Albany’s persistent allegations of corruption and abuse, it is time we stop playing games with ethics reform and start getting serious about regaining the faith of those we are elected to serve.
 
The situation is wrong on every level. The longer the Assembly Majority waits to act, the longer we pay the pensions of people who do not deserve it.  
 
ASSEMBLY MINORITY CONFERENCE HAS LONG ADVOCATED FOR CHANGE
 
Recently, Assemblyman William Scarborough announced he is pleading guilty to fraud charges related to per diem pay. This is just one of many unfortunate examples that have cropped up in recent months and reinforces the urgency to enact meaningful changes in Albany.
 
Taking advantage of taxpayers is shameful, and that is why I have called for a major overhaul of ethics legislation for years. My Public Officers Accountability Act (A.4617)would put term limits on legislative leaders and increase penalties for foul play, but the Assembly Majority continues to hamper wholesale changes.
 
How many more accusations, indictments and convictions will it take before we start using an aggressive approach to root out corruption? How much more taxpayer money needs to be taken before real reform is enacted?
 
NO EXCUSE FOR THE HOLDUP 
 
I find new reports that the measure the Senate passed should be altered or “tightened” to be nothing short of infuriating. Media outlets have indicated that special interests are unhappy with the language in the proposal and are behind the holdup. This rhetoric is unacceptable and a poor excuse to stall a measure that is long overdue.
 
I will continue to fight for a speedy remedy to the growing problem of corruption. Convicted felons who chose to betray hard-working New Yorkers do not deserve a lifetime of checks from taxpayers. Any ethics reform short of removing those pensions is simply not enough.
                                                                                                        
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.

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