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Albany Corruption Big Issue With Voters, Siena Poll Finds

Former State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos is among recent lawmakers convicted of public corruption.
Former State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos is among recent lawmakers convicted of public corruption. Photo Credit: File photo
Former state Assembly leader Sheldon Silver, a Democrat was found guilty of all counts by a jury in federal court for a money-laundering scheme.
Former state Assembly leader Sheldon Silver, a Democrat was found guilty of all counts by a jury in federal court for a money-laundering scheme. Photo Credit: File photo

The vast majority of New Yorkers feel corruption in Albany is a serious problem, even among legislators from their own areas, according to the latest poll from the Siena Research Institute.

According to the college poll, 89 percent say governmental corruption is a problem. Of those, 53 percent say it is “very serious” and two-thirds point to wrong-doing and double-dealing on the part of their own representatives.

Siena pollsters canvassed registered voters who also told them that they want to make the job of state legislator full-time.

Sixty percent of respondents also called for a ban on outside income for legislators; while 55 percent of those polled thought lawmakers should not get raises from their current base salary of $79,500 -- even if outside income is banned.

According to the Loudonville-based institute, many of the proposals outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his combined budget and State of the State address are very popular with voters.

There is, it said, overwhelming support for stripping pensions from convicted legislators and enacting paid family leave.

More than 60 percent of voters polled said they support gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, allocating $300 million to the state Environmental Protection Fund, and eliminating the LLC loophole in campaign contributions.

The poll also found that a majority of voters also support limiting state legislators’ outside income to 15 percent and creating a $200 million fund for upstate airports.

However, Cuomo did not gain much support for his plans to renovate Penn Station or the enactment of the “Dream Act.”

The latter measure would allow high school graduates, who also happen to be undocumented immigrants, to seek state aid for college.

“New Yorkers’ confidence in state government in Albany hovers at historic low levels,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

“Nearly nine in ten voters say corruption is a serious problem in Albany, with more than half saying it’s ‘very’ serious,” he added – and that goes for both the Senate and the Assembly.

Eight-four percent of voters polled support denying pensions to legislators who have been convicted of crimes related to their public service, regardless of when the official was first elected, Greenberg said.

And, by a 59-35 percent margin, they support limiting legislators’ outside income to 15 percent of their salary, or about $12,000, the poll found.

Ethics reform has become a major issue, especially at the state approaches a legislative election year, Greenberg said.

One-quarter of voters polled told the institute that reform is one of the top two issues they want the Cuomo to address – up from 19 percent last year.

And nearly half of voters, Greenberg said, say the recent corruption scandals make it less likely that they will re-elect their state legislators.”

To read more results from the Siena poll, click here.

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