Cuomo Puts Blame on 'Lulus' Controversy on State Comptroller
For the first time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is weighing in on the controversy over extra money being paid to State Senators for jobs they didn't hold. And interestingly, he's not strongly scolding lawmakers for taking the extra money, instead blaming State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. Statehouse Reporter Zack Fink has more.
Gov. Cuomo was in Manhattan on Thursday to highlight state funding for supportive housing, but it was the controversy surrounding stipends for state senators that dominated his question-and-answer session with reporters.
Last week, it was first revealed that a handful of Senate Republicans and members of their coalition, the breakaway Democrats known as the IDC, were receiving stipends for jobs they do not hold.
The Senate sent information to the state comptroller's office asking for approval of the stipends for committee chairs, who are actually only serving as vice chairs.
"It's either legal or not legal. The comptroller of the state signed a check, or funded a payroll, or whatever he did," Cuomo said Thursday. "He either did it legally or illegally. I believe his position is, It was legal."
The IDC and Republicans have argued the stipends, also known as "lulus," are legal because the law gives broad discretion over who can actually receive them.
But others say it's not very clear at all. Cuomo puts the blame squarely on the state comptroller for approving the additional payments.
"If it was not legal, the comptroller shouldn't have done it. If it's not legal, the comptroller should call up and say, 'Whoops, I made a mistake. I need the money back,'" Cuomo said. "So, the call is the comptroller's."
In a statement, a spokesperson for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said, "The Comptroller's office is not a court of law. This issue needs to be decided by the Senate itself or the legal system."
The governor maintains there is a larger problem at work: lawmakers should be paid more and their outside income should be banned.
"None of it looks good. The part-time position, where you can make outside income, doesn't look good," Cuomo said. "People get this. People get it's an inherent conflict of interest."
If prosecutors decline to investigate the stipend story, it could become more of a footnote rather than a scandal.
So far, no prosecutors at the federal, state, or local level have shown much appetite for it.