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Poll: NYers want harder line than pols on anti-corrupt bills

ALBANY — While state legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continue to seek compromise on several anti-corruption proposals, a poll released Monday found most New York voters demand a much harder line.

For example, legislators and Cuomo want to raise the pay of lawmakers in exchange for potentially reclassifying lawmakers’ jobs full time to avoid conflicts of interest from outside jobs as lawyers and consultants. But the Siena Research Institute poll found that not only do 60 percent of voters want lawmakers to work full time, almost as many — 55 percent — don’t want to give legislators any more pay to do it.

Eight in 10 voters also want to rescind state pensions to lawmakers convicted of corruption as well as ban any outside income, but each of those proposals is blocked in the legislature.

“New Yorkers’ confidence in state government in Albany hovers at historic low levels,” Steven Greenberg said of the Siena poll. He said the poll found 89 percent of voters believe corruption is a serious problem.

The poll questioned 805 registered voters Jan. 24-28 and had a margin of error plus or minus 4 percentage points.

A string of corruption cases have forced 30 officials from office in the past 10 years. Many involved conflicts of interest with lawmakers’ outside jobs and abuse of per diem payments. In December, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) were convicted on federal corruption charges.

“The numbers are overwhelming,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. “New Yorkers are so disgusted with their elected officials that half are ready to make a clean sweep of them.” She cited the poll’s finding that 49 percent of voters are less likely to re-elect their legislator because of Albany’s corruption scandals.

Lawmakers now make a base pay of $79,500 in addition to stipends for committee assignments and other leadership positions, as well as a $172 per diem payment for work in Albany. The result is that most lawmakers make around $100,000 for the jobs that are classified as part-time and allow lawmakers to take outside jobs. The base pay for legislators hasn’t been raised since 1998.

Cuomo wouldn’t comment on the poll.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) again said he opposed a key element of Cuomo’s proposal — banning outside income. “We are willing to sit down and have a discussion,” Flanagan told public radio. But he added: “Respectfully . . . we have made changes in the ethics law I think five times in the last six years.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) “takes very seriously the need for strong ethics measures,” said spokesman Michael Whyland. “We have been discussing the issue of greater disclosure of outside income with our members as well as a variety of measures to strengthen ethics and earn the trust of New Yorkers in their government.”

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