ALBANY — The state comptroller’s office on Friday told the Senate’s Republican majority that it will block payments of some leadership stipends if the GOP doesn’t end its practice of re-directing some of the extra pay to rank-and-file Republicans and Democratic allies.
The Senate’s Republican majority allows only one leadership stipend to a senator. The stipend can range from $3,125 for some committee and conference leadership posts to $41,500 for the majority leader. These payments are in lieu of salary — called “lulus” in Albany for decades. Some Republican senators hold two leadership posts, so the Republican conference has directed the extra lulus to other GOP members and two members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which helps the Republicans maintain their narrow majority control.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli compared the certified payroll of the Senate to the leadership roster on the Senate’s official website and found some specific leadership stipends were being paid to senators who don’t hold those posts, according to records obtained Friday under the state Freedom of Information Law. The comptroller’s office said legislative law requires the payrolls to accurately reflect payments.
The Senate Republicans provide leadership stipends to three members of the eight-member IDC among. In all, the comptroller questioned the documentation for stipends to seven senators.
For example, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) of the Independent Democratic Conference is scheduled to receive a $4,500 stipend this year that is reserved for the chairman of the Codes Committee, even though she is the vice chairwoman. The committee’s chairman is Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island), who instead takes the $4,875 stipend for being the assistant majority whip.
DiNapoli approved the first quarterly payment of lulus, but with the warning that it could be rescinded.
If “you do not provide documentation showing that these members serve in the office or special capacity listed . . . we will be withholding the remaining payment to those affected members,” said a March 9 letter by Deputy Comptroller Christopher M. Gorka to the secretary of the Senate. “We may also be required to adjust any prior 2018 payment . . . depending upon Senate action.”
“We continue to maintain that everything has been done in accordance with the law,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate’s Republican majority. “To the extent that the comptroller has any additional questions, we will work with him to answer and resolve those questions, just like we would on any other issue.”
Legislators make a base pay of $79,500 a year plus any leadership stipends and per diem payments for work in Albany and away from their districts.
“We expect the secretary of the Senate will answer all of the comptroller’s questions to his satisfaction,” said Candice Giove, spokeswoman for the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference.