Kieran Michael Lalor speaks at Ulster Orange Tea Party, Oct. 2011.
(This article is published at PoughkeepsieJournal.com on 2/25/12; reprinted here with permission.)
State’s political landscape drives away businesses
In the last decade 1.6 million people fled our state because Albany’s culture of corruption leads to bloated government and billions of tax dollars squandered. To feed the government beast and stay in office, politicians relentlessly take an ever-increasing share from the productive, hard-working taxpayers to subsidize the politically connected. The innovators and entrepreneurs who are the engine of job creation are forced to seek a more hospitable business climate elsewhere.
A quintessential example of how politicians in both parties put their political self-interest above the public interest and waste tax dollars has been playing out this winter. Rather than have just one primary election for presidential, congressional and state offices, New York state will have three primaries between now and September. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, each primary costs taxpayers an astounding $50 million. Thus, over the next few months $100 million of your tax dollars will be squandered because incumbent politicians calculate that three separate primaries increase their reelection chances.
Making matters worse, New York legislators are more likely to be convicted of a crime than voted out of office. There are only 212 state lawmakers. Since 2000, five assemblymen and four state senators have been convicted of felonies. Another five senators have been convicted of misdemeanors. Three former senators and a sitting assemblyman face corruption charges. Those legislators who are not corrupt are unable or unwilling to expose those who are. Our reputation as a state run by a den of thieves has devastating economic consequences. Employers simply don’t want to do business in a state that isn’t on the level.
Only by sending to Albany a critical mass of legislators who will agree to end taxpayer abuse through the following five reforms can we again be the Empire State:
Reform 1. No pensions for state politicians: State lawmaker pensions are not necessary and we can’t afford them. Even California, which leads the nation in wasteful spending, has done away with state lawmaker pensions.
Reform 2. No pork barrel spending: Where there is pork, there is corruption. Legitimate local projects that warrant funding by state government should be transparently voted on by the legislature not paid out of taxpayer-funded slush funds controlled by individual lawmakers.
Reform 3. Ten percent pay cut for state politicians: Albany legislators are in session fewer than 70 days per year but make a base salary of $79,500. Only two other states pay their legislators more. Have the taxpayers been getting good value?
Reform 4. No perks for politicians: Along with the big salary, more than 95 percent of legislators (202 out of 212) get paid a “leadership” stipend of between $9,000 and $41,500. In addition to many other lavish perks, legislators have their travel to Albany covered by the taxpayer and we pay for their meals while in session. We can’t afford the perks politicians vote themselves.
Reform 5. Term limits of four, two-year terms and no lobbying once out of office: Limiting lawmakers to four, two-year terms would help eliminate the most flagrant violators of the public trust. We have learned from other states that term-limited lawmakers spend their last few years in office setting themselves up for their next job, usually a high-paying lobbying post. Consequently, a necessary corollary to any term limits proposal is a lifetime ban on lobbying in the state.
Any candidate who won’t self-impose the five common sense reforms outlined above does not deserve your vote.