About a week after Governor David Paterson threatened to dock the stalemated State Senators' pay, now State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli moving forward with it. On July 25, DiNapoli's office was trying to figure out whether the Governor had the power to do that, and last night, DiNapoli sent a press release out:
Shortly after the Senate leadership controversy arose, I directed my staff to stop processing any Senate vouchers, including those for Senators’ travel. To date, we are holding more than 250 vouchers, totaling $560,000.
The question of withholding Senators’ pay has raised complicated legal and constitutional issues. My staff has been meeting with Governor Paterson’s staff to resolve those issues. These discussions are ongoing.
Out of respect for the separation of powers, I have strived to avoid inserting my office into what is essentially an internal matter within a separate branch of government. But the deadlock in the Senate is undermining the ability of state government to function. Taxpayers are paying a very high price. The stalemate is costing taxpayers across the state millions of dollars a day.
As the state’s fiscal officer, I have a responsibility to taxpayers to safeguard their interests. These are difficult fiscal times. The state needs leadership and action.
I have instructed my staff to initiate the process to hold Senators’ pay. I have also filed suit in Supreme Court seeking declaratory judgment to clarify the Constitutional and statutory obligations surrounding this matter.
Every elected official has a duty to serve the people of this great state. I urge Senators to resolve their differences now. The people of New York deserve no less.
However, DiNapoli's spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman told the Times, "Will those paychecks be likely released in the future? Yes. Taking away their pay is a completely different issue than holding their paychecks." The Senate Democrats' spokesman said, "We'll see him in court," while the Senate Republicans had no comment for the Daily News. But Republican Senator Martin Golden said, "I don't think it's legal, but to be honest with you, I think it's a good idea."
DiNapoli also provided a fact sheet showing the cost of Senate inaction—"Local Governments: $741 million; NYC: $902 million; State: $1.3 billion."