By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
ALBANY (AP) - Reform advocates, most voters and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo want to help clean up scandal-scarred Albany by prohibiting the state’s 213 legislators from making serious money on the side.
But the most recent financial filings show that most lawmakers already get by without substantial outside income. In fact, a majority reported no earnings from sideline work. Those with other jobs included a pharmacist, a veterinarian and an insurance agency owner.
The disclosures filed last year show just 24 lawmakers, mostly lawyers, were making about as much or more in outside income as their $79,500 base annual pay from the state.
In fact, those 24 accounted for at least two-thirds of outside income reported for 2014, which ranged between $4.6 million and $7.1 million. In the imprecise system, income is reported in ranges.
In his latest ethics initiative, Cuomo proposed limiting legislators’ outside income to 15 percent of state pay, similar to restrictions on Congress. That won prompt praise from reformers, who have been asking legislators to sign a pledge supporting that and other measures including more transparency on state spending. Only 26 have signed.
Last fall, federal juries convicted former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of peddling their influence in office. Both were lawyers reporting significant outside income, but they denied the criminal charges against them. Prosecutors said Silver collected legal fees for influencing legislation and grants and Skelos pressured companies with state interests to provide his son no-show jobs.
Last week, Siena College pollsters reported 60 percent of New York voters support making the Legislature full time and banning outside employment as a way of reducing corruption.
The positions are currently considered part time. The Legislature usually meets from January through June, though senators and Assembly members staff offices year round.
Sen. John Flanagan, the Long Island Republican who replaced Skelos as Senate majority leader, said last week he wouldn’t support a ban on outside income. Flanagan, with his new Senate responsibilities, said he’s stopped working privately as a lawyer but supports the right of others to do it. He reported $100,000 to $150,000 of outside income in 2014.
Flanagan said, however, the Senate Republican Conference already has started discussing ethics issues.
The governor also proposed stripping pensions of legislators convicted of corruption and closing the campaign finance loophole that lets limited liability companies donate far more to campaigns than other business entities and without disclosing their owners.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat who replaced Silver, also no longer has outside income. He had been an adjunct college instructor, reporting $1,000 to $5,000 of income in 2014. The majority Democratic Conference hasn’t taken a position on limiting outside income.
“We’ve had some productive discussions with the members since the start of the session,” conference spokesman Michael Whyland said. “And we’re serious about strong ethics laws.”
Base pay for the 213 legislators costs $16.9 million. Many get additional stipends, and all get certain expenses reimbursed.
Here are what some others in the Senate reported in outside income:
- Michael Ranzenhofer, Erie County Republican and attorney, $150,000 to $250,000.
- Marc Panepinto, Erie County Democrat and attorney, $150,000 to $250,000. Panepinto also reported a law firm profit of $750,000 to $850,000.
- Michael Nozzolio, Monroe County Republican and attorney, $150,000 to $250,000.
- Philip Boyle, Long Island Republican and attorney, $100,000 to $150,000.
- Kemp Hannon and Kenneth LaValle, Long Island Republicans and attorneys, $75,000 to $100,000.
In the Assembly, reporting between $75,000 to $100,000 were:
- Brian Curran, a Long Island Republican and attorney.
- John McDonald, a Cohoes Democrat and pharmacist.
- Bill Nojay, a Livingston County Republican and attorney.
- Robert Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat and financial adviser.
- Luis Sepulveda, a Bronx Democrat and attorney.
Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx Democrat, reported consulting income between $80,000 and $165,000.
Reporting between $100,000 and $150,000:
- Jane Corwin, Erie County Republican and a director at Gibraltar Industries.
- Gary Finch, an Auburn Republican and funeral home owner.
- Mark Gjonaj, a Bronx Democrat and real estate broker.
- Anthony Palumbo, an attorney and Long Island Republican.
- Dan Quart, a Manhattan Democrat and attorney.
- Jo Anne Simon, a Brooklyn Democrat and attorney.
- Phil Steck, attorney and Albany County Democrat.
- Stephen Katz, a Putnman County Republican and veterinarian.
- Carrie Woerner, a Saratoga Democrat and software executive.
Steve Hawley, a Republican from Batavia, reported income between $450,000 and $550,000 from the insurance business. He sees himself as a citizen-legislator, the way it was originally designed, mainly with farmers. He said he hasn’t been conflicted in voting, even on insurance issues, and said the Legislature working hard could finish its annual session in 60 days and take a pay cut.