SOMERS, N.Y. – Assemblyman Steve Katz has outlined a plan for saving New York State’s taxpayers roughly $100 million per year. The savings would come from significantly reducing the number of bills funneled through the Assembly and cutting lawmakers' salaries almost in half.
“When I took office two years ago, I brought a businessman’s outlook to the Assembly,” Katz said at a press conference Tuesday at Somers Town House. “Looking beyond politics, I wondered just what is the legislature doing and what is it costing us.”
The 99th District Republican/Independent said he discovered that “66 days a year are spent drafting bills. The assembly alone passes 1,000 bills a year. This is obscene. We vote on more bills than the U. S. Congress and more than California, Florida and Texas combined.”
Before going to the floor of the Assembly, bills are reviewed by related committees, such as education or transportation, Katz said. There is no debate in committee.
Since there is a partisan Assembly – Democrats represent two-thirds of the 150 members – nearly every Republican proposal is “put on hold” at committee level and never appears again, he said.
A great many of the bills that do get past committees and onto the floor are vague and poorly researched, “with no hope of becoming a law,” he said.
Cluttering the process as well are hundreds of home-rule bills, which are county-specific and are, in Katz’s words, “an anachronism left over from the 19th century.”
Among other reforms, Katz suggests eliminating committee approvals. “If a bill requires funding, it should have a cost analysis and fiscal impact statement, certified by the comptroller’s office, before it is presented to the Assembly. A companion bill should go to the Senate at the same time.”
Streamlining the process could decrease the number of bills from over 1,000 to well under 200 a year, said Katz.
“We are the only state that votes on bills. Everywhere else, once the budget is voted on, the session is over.” In New York, says Katz, “less is being accomplished than you can possibly imagine. It’s a scam on the taxpayers.”
Katz said right now he and his colleagues are paid $79,500 a year and are about to vote themselves a raise to $100,000. If there were fewer spurious bills and home rule bills to consider, said Katz, “we could be in Albany half the time, then go home and go to work. We could cut our salaries to $45,000 a year. And the state would save $100 million a year.”