Albany, NY (November 30, 2006) – Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer announced today a series of executive actions he and the Lieutenant Governor-Elect intend to take as first
steps in implementing a broader reform agenda. These reforms will be implemented through voluntary actions or the issuance of executive orders upon taking office.
The executive actions are aimed at instituting ethical reforms, restoring non partisanship, fixing the budget process, promoting openness and instituting greater accountability.
“If we are to reverse our state’s decline, we must first reform our state government to make it more accountable and effective,” said Governor-Elect Spitzer. “Reform must
begin at the highest levels of government, which is why David and I personally plan to take the following actions on January 1 . These reforms are the first step in a st comprehensive reform agenda that we plan to actively pursue.”
The following executive actions that will be instituted immediately upon the Governor-Elect and Lieutenant Governor-Elect taking office, either through voluntary actions or through the issuance of Executive Orders.
Ø Prohibit all at-will employees of the Governor’s Office, the State agencies and the public authorities from receiving any gifts with more than nominal value.
Under current law, State employees may receive gifts up to $75. The proposed action will eliminate all such gifts. The only exceptions will be gifts of nominal value (e.g., a cup of coffee or a ceremonial plaque), and traditional non-politically related gifts (e.g. wedding gifts) where there is no appearance of an attempt to influence the
Ø Prohibit former Governor’s Office employees from lobbying any Executive
Branch agency for two years
The current two-year ban only prohibits a former State employee from lobbying the specific agency where the employee worked. Thus, an employee of the Governor’s Office who leaves State service can immediately begin to lobby any other Executive
Branch agency, even agencies that the employee dealt with frequently while serving in the Governor’s Office. This proposed action will end that practice, and will ensure that Governor’s Office employees do not lobby any Executive Branch agency for two years.
Ø Neither the Governor nor the Lieutenant Governor will appear in any taxpayerfinanced commercials
State commercials (such as “I Love NY” ads) featuring elected officials create the appearance that taxpayer dollars are being spent to benefit the political career of the elected official. This practice will end.
Ø Neither the Governor nor the Lieutenant Governor will accept fees to give speeches It is inappropriate for State officials to receive “speaking fees” at events. Invitations
to give speeches invariably are made because of the individual’s official position, and State employees should not be utilizing their government position for personal gain.
Ø Prohibit agency commissioners and other high-level personnel from running for state or federal office while serving as State employees.
When high-level State officials run for office, it creates the appearance that they may be taking positions or actions in their official capacity for the purpose of benefitting
their political campaign. Any agency commissioner or other high-level appointee who wishes to run for state or federal office will be asked to resign or take a leave of
Self-Imposed Campaign Finance Reforms
Ø The Governor and Lieutenant Governor will voluntarily restrict the
campaign contributions that they receive, by agreeing to the following
o No contributions from individuals, partnerships, limited liability
companies (LLCs), unions, PACs or other non-corporate entities over
o No contributions from corporate subsidiaries if the parent company has
already contributed the $5,000 maximum; and
o Applying the partnership pass-through rules to LLCs, thereby
prohibiting LLC contributions where the individual or entity controlling
the LLC has already contributed the maximum amount allowed.
New York State’s campaign contribution limits are among the highest in the nation, and should be lowered significantly. Individuals, partnerships and other noncorporate entities can currently contribute up to $50,100 to candidates for statewide
office. Subsidiary corporations can currently contribute separately from parent corporations. Finally, some LLCs have been created for the sole purpose of allowing individuals and corporations to exceed the contribution limits.
Ø Prohibit campaign contributions from at-will State employees to the
Governor and the Lieutenant Governor
Whenever State employees make campaign contributions to their superiors, it creates the impression that they are required to do so in order to retain their government jobs. As a result, neither Governor-Elect Spitzer nor Lieutenant Governor-Elect Paterson will accept campaign contributions from at-will State employees.
Ø Neither the Governor nor the Lieutenant Governor will hold or participate in any fundraisers within the Capitol Region during the legislative session
Numerous political fundraising events are held in the Albany area during the legislative session. Lobbyists and others seeking to influence legislation can
make campaign contributions to elected officials at these fundraisers, and then meet with these same officials, requesting favorable treatment on legislation.
This creates at least an appearance of the undue influence of money over
government decision making, and neither Governor-Elect Spitzer nor
Lieutenant Governor-Elect will hold any such fundraisers in the Capital Region while the Legislature is in session.
Ø Prohibit any hiring or contracting official from inquiring about the political affiliation of a prospective employee or contractor
The Civil Service Law currently prohibits inquiries regarding the political affiliation of positions under the Civil Service Law. This same rule will now
be extended to higher-level “exempt” positions, and also to individuals seeking government contracts. The only exceptions will be positions on those boards and commissions where the number of appointees in a particular party is limited.
Ø End the practice of having individuals change their party affiliation to meet the requirements for appointment.
Several state boards and commissions (such as the Civil Service Commission, State Investigation Commission and PERB) are intended to be “non-partisan,” and the Legislature sought to implement that intent by limiting the number of
board members who can be from the same party. However, that intent has
been subverted by recent practices, in which individuals have been asked to change or drop their party affiliation in order to avoid violating the statute.
That practice will end.
Fixing the Broken Budget Process
Ø Bring both houses of the Legislature into the budget making process as early as possible, and share with them as much information as possible about both
expected revenues and plans for spending.
One of the best ways to ensure enactment of an on-time budget is to start the process earlier. By starting the process sooner and facilitating a free flow of
communication, we will more quickly learn about disagreements, and will be better equipped to address them.
Ø Seek to reach a quick consensus with both houses on revenue projections, and if no consensus can be reached, agree to be bound by the projections issued by the
Comptroller’s Office, whose non-partisan professionals are widely recognized as issuing reliable estimates of State revenues, uninfluenced by politics.
One of the main causes of delay every year is the inability of the Governor, Assembly and Senate to agree on the amount of revenue that is available to be spent. It is
impossible to agree on how to spend money until you agree on how much
can be spent. We will try to reach that consensus sooner, and if we are unable to do so, we will agree to be bound by the revenue projections of the professional staff of the Comptroller’s Office.
Ø Require that all member item appropriations be set forth as separate line items in the budget Traditionally, “member item” appropriations have been set forth as separate line items, so that the public could see the specific spending proposals before the budget
bills were voted on. More recently, however, the Governor and the Legislature have agreed to enact large “lump sum” appropriations, with the understanding that after the budget is passed, each side would be able to parcel out its share of the funding to its
favored projects. We need to end these secretive practices, and instead require that the budget specify each recipient of such “member item” funding.
Ø Hold regular news conferences and media interviews, both to ensure that the public is informed, and to promote a vigorous public debate on the issues The public has a right to know about the activities of the government, and the best way to achieve that goal is to make sure that the press has frequent access to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
Ø Have an open-door policy for all members of the Legislature, so that they have the opportunity to discuss the concerns of their local constituencies Providing easy access for individual legislators of both parties to meet with the
Governor, Lieutenant Governor and their staffs will help restore the public’s confidence that their concerns will be considered and addressed.
Ø Make the Executive Mansion and State Capitol more accessible, while still
The Executive Mansion and the State Capitol belong to the people, but unfortunately have become barricaded symbols of an unresponsive government. There should be a
full assessment of ways that these buildings can be made more accessible without compromising security, with a special emphasis on facilitating access for members of the press.
Ø Expand the use of the Internet to communicate with New York ‘s residents, including by making meetings of the MTA, the Public Service Commission and other State entities available on real-time webcasts
New York has an “Open Meetings Law,” but the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t have the time or the money to travel to Albany to attend such meetings. So instead, we will bring the meetings to the people, by having real-time webcasts of the meetings of major public boards and commissions.
Ø Institute regular and rigorous evaluations of the Executive agencies, including requiring that agencies adopt performance measurements, establish goals, and track their performance over time.
Measuring performance is a routine practice in the business world, because business
leaders know that you cannot improve the bottom line if you do not have established performance goals. The State government should adopt these same practices, so that we can make government more efficient and cost-effective, thereby reducing the need
for additional taxpayer dollars.
Ø Appoint a first-rate Inspector General, and give that office the resources it needs
to pursue corruption in government without fear or favor.
The State Inspector General is one of the most important officials in State government, because the IG is responsible for investigating corruption, fraud and
waste throughout the Executive Branch of government, including the power to appoint deputy inspectors general assigned to individual agencies. No administration can claim that it is serious about reform unless it is willing to give the IG’s Office the resources needed to do its job effectively.