The candidates to replace former state Sen. Dean Skelos weighed in Friday on the lack of ethics reform in the state budget, with each taking the occasion to attack the other on the issue.
Democrat Todd Kaminsky, a state assemblyman from Long Beach, and Republican Christopher McGrath, a personal injury attorney from Hewlett, both of whom are seeking the 9th State Senate District seat, have detailed different ethics reform measures — none of which made the budget.
The state’s $156 billion spending plan, which was finalized Friday night, contained major items such as paid family leave, a minimum wage hike and the end of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which reduced revenue to school districts to close state budget gaps.
But ethics reform has been a persistent topic in Albany since the indictments last year of Skelos, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, and Silver, the former Democratic Assembly speaker. Both men were convicted of federal corruption crimes.
That prompted new cries for ethics reform measures that for years have failed to gain serious traction. If they’re taken up at all this year, it will have to be in the legislative session that ends in June.
“The fact that we stand here without having any meaningful ethics reform at all, it’s really sad and I think the public expects better,” said Kaminsky, who prioritizes banning outside income for legislators, among other measures.
McGrath, who has prioritized stripping convicted public officials of their pensions and setting term limits for elected officials, said in a statement: “I’m disappointed that these anti-corruption measures were not in the budget deal.” He blamed the Democratic-led Assembly for not supporting the pension measure last year after public unions balked.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made ethics proposals early this year, including limiting outside income of legislators to about $11,900 a year, similar to congressional limits; requiring state officials to forfeit their state pensions if convicted of corruption; and closing the so-called LLC loophole that allows corporations to use subsidiaries to exceed corporate limits on campaign donations.
Assembly Democrats supported some version of most of the items, and have said they’d consider a full outside income ban that came with making legislators’ positions full-time with increased pay. Senate Republicans said an outside income ban was not a budget priority, but have backed Cuomo’s effort to strip pensions from corrupt officials.
Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, has touted bills calling for the complete ban on legislators’ outside income and giving local prosecutors the ability to charge witnesses with lying to their investigators. He said he supported the state budget without ethics reform because of the other items that were in it, but blamed Republicans for stymying the outside income and LLC loophole efforts that generally had the support of Cuomo and the Assembly.
“When you have a Senate that won’t sit down at the table, I think it’s tough going,” he said, adding that the GOP “is doing exactly what Chris McGrath wants them to do — which is nothing.”
McGrath, who said he would keep his law firm job if elected, criticized Kaminsky for not taking a stand against the state budget because it was missing ethics reform.
“Typical politician Todd Kaminsky says he’s for ethics reform, but when it comes time for a vote, he voted for a budget that did not include any,” McGrath spokesman Marcus Povinelli said in a statement.