Politicians who betray the public trust shouldn't get pensions paid for by the public. But astoundingly, in the state of New York, this isn't the law.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week proposed a bill to correct that, blocking any future elected officials or state employees from collecting their pension checks if they're convicted of a felony involving abuse of their position.
The proposal was quickly dubbed "Hevesi's Law," after Alan Hevesi, the recently convicted former state comptroller, but it could have just as easily have been named after numerous other crooked public servants. Hevesi, pulling down a $105,000-per-year pension after he used his control over the state's pension funds to elicit millions of dollars worth of perks, is merely one example of pols gone putrid.
The state constitution prevents imposing these same restrictions on current and former officials. To keep them honest, Cuomo also wants to increase civil penalties to take the profit out of criminal behavior. None of this will affect current indictees like Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) and former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx), but late is better than never.
More than 20 states bar convicted officials from collecting pensions, but such proposals in New York have stalled. Now lawmakers can pass a real deterrent against corruption, and dispel the cynical fear that they protect the financial futures of the corrupt because they themselves might need that protection in the future.