Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday asked New Yorkers to call their Assembly members and senators to insist that any elected official convicted of corruption be denied their state pensions.
“This is where the people of the state can make a real difference,” Cuomo told reporters after an event on Long Island. “I would ask them to reach out and call their Assembly person, call their senator and say, ‘Revoke the pension of any person convicted of a crime in office, period . . . .’
“I believe 100 percent we should revoke the pension of those found guilty of official corruption,” Cuomo said. “It’s terrible, it’s insulting to the public . . . there’s no excuse for it.”
Cuomo, the Senate’s Republican majority and the Assembly’s Democratic majority had a deal to do just that almost a year ago, but the Assembly Democrats pulled out after opposition by public employee unions before the deal could become law. The unions raised concerns that unelected state workers would be included — which they argued isn’t the point of the measure — and that innocent family members of employees would be hurt financially for misdeeds of the worker.
The state pension system is now paying out more than $800,000 a year in pensions to elected officials forced from office for corruption convictions and other charges. More than 30 officials have been convicted in the last 10 years, mostly in federal prosecutions.
In December, 11 days after he was convicted on corruption charges, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) filed for his $95,831-a-year pension, according to a report on Wednesday from the state comptroller’s office.
A reporter on Thursday told Cuomo that Long Islanders were angry over that. “They should be. I’m upset. It’s absurd,” Cuomo said.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has said he continues to seek a compromise and expects an agreement on pension forfeiture this year.
The deal would have started the process to change the constitution, which guarantees pensions to state workers. The Assembly also objected to the deal because there was no agreement on the wording of a constitutional amendment, said Heastie spokesman Michael Whyland.
Heastie rose to power when longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was arrested and later convicted of corruption charges involving $4 million in kickbacks. Silver collects a pension of $79,224 a year.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who rose to power after Skelos’ arrest, said he’s ready to pass the pension forfeiture bill.