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Astorino calls for term limits

WBFO File Photo

The Republican candidate for Governor, Rob Astorino, is  pressing for term limits for state officials.  He also spoke against another reform proposal percolating in the legislature, campaign finance reform.

Astorino proposes limiting the terms of governors, state comptrollers and attorney generals, to two, four-year terms and Senators and Assemblymembers to four, two-year terms.

“That gives you eight years to accomplish things,” Astorino said.

The leader of the Republicans in the Senate, Dean Skelos, has been in office for 30 years.  The Assembly GOP Leader, Brian Kolb, was first elected 14 years ago.  

But Astorino reserved his specific criticism to the Democratic Leader of the State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who has been the Speaker for 20 years, and in office since 1976.  He says Silver has been in office too long.

The GOP candidate for governor tied the issue of lengthy terms in office to the controversy over Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission as an example of corruption that can happen after lawmakers spend decades in office. The Moreland Commission, which was investigating potential wrong doing in the legislature, was closed down as part of a budget agreement in late March.

The U.S. Attorney, Preet Bharara, is now investigating some of the actions of the governor’s commission. Among other things, he may be looking for possible steering of probes away from anything connected to Cuomo.  The federal investigators have asked the Senate and Assembly not to destroy any documents related to the Moreland Commission. Cuomo’s office has not confirmed whether the executive branch has been asked to also preserve documents.

Astorino seized on the matter as a campaign issue.  He says Cuomo needs to answer questions “directly”.

“On what it is he knew, what role he and or his staff had in this commission, whether or not they did direct subpoenas to be quashed,” Astorino said.

Cuomo portrays the federal requests so far as an amicable relationship of cooperation between his office and the US Attorney.  The governor spoke most recently in New York City on Tuesday.

“The commission is disbanded, but it still has work to do. It’s in the process of referring cases to other offices and following up on all those referrals,” Cuomo said.

“So I think it’s fine.”   

Astorino remains opposed to another reform measure now being discussed by Governor Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate, public financing of campaigns. And he urged the GOP Senators to say no.

“All this does is take hard-earned tax dollars that have been siphoned away from education aid, and can be used to lower taxes, and gives it to politicians so they can do robo calls and go out to dinners,” Astorino said.

“I don’t think that’s the right use, given where we are in this state.”

One of the candidates on the GOP statewide ticket,  Comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci, is participating in public financing for his campaign, under a pilot program approved in the state budget and limited to that race only. Astorino says he does not see that as a contradiction.

Senate Republicans are also being pressured by the state’s Conservative Party not to agree to a broader public campaign financing plan. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo is taking heat form the left leaning Working Families Party to convince Senators to sign on to a matching small donor proposal.

There’s been no agreement yet, and it’s increasing unlikely that a pact will be reached before the two minor party conventions are held on May 31st.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.