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Power of the Purse Comes With a Pinch

    They do not expect any sympathy. They are, after all, Albany legislators.
    But their latest and perhaps most notable failure — they are almost four months late in delivering a state budget during a fiscal crisis — has not come without a personal price.
    All 212 senators and Assembly members have gone without a paycheck since the beginning of April. That is the penalty New York law imposes for missing the April 1 deadline for a new budget.
    Some, like Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, who have other, sometimes lucrative, sources of income, have managed to do just fine without their $1,528.84 per week base salary. About half of the state’s legislators hold outside jobs.
    But for others, like Assemblyman Michael Benjamin from the Bronx and Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris from Queens, the State Legislature provides their entire salary.
    Some have been forced to take out loans, borrow from family members or dip into retirement accounts to pay for basic necessities.
    Mr. Gianaris, a Democrat, said he had been draining his savings to keep up with the mortgage on the home he bought two years ago. Not that he expects any pity.
   “People are rightfully fed up with the lack of effectiveness in state government,” he said. “I would quickly forgive them for not having sympathy for our personal plight.”
    Mr. Benjamin, another Democrat, said he and his wife had to ask creditors for more time to pay credit card and cellphone bills. “We’ve made no vacation plans, we cut back spending and are eating a lot more rice,” he said. “We haven’t gotten to the ramen noodles yet.”
    Even lawmakers who have working spouses say losing a chunk of their $79,500 yearly income hurts. Michelle Schimel, an assemblywoman from Long Island, said that although her husband had a job at Infosys International, they needed both their incomes to pay their mortgage, college loans for their two sons and other household expenses.
   “I may end up being the first assemblywoman to foreclose on a mortgage,” said Ms. Schimel, a Democrat, who has leaned on family members to help pay her mortgage and avoid having to take out a bank loan. Still, she is not trying to elicit tears. “I signed up for this,” she said.
    But adding to the frustration of some lawmakers who are among the have-nots scraping to get by is the harsh political reality that they are not the ones in control of what is happening — or not happening — in the State Capitol.
    In both the Assembly and the Senate, which are controlled by Democrats, the leadership, Mr. Silver and John L. Sampson, the Senate leader, dictate the final terms of negotiations over legislative business, especially the budget.
    Thus, the two men essentially hold the key to moving the budget to its conclusion, allowing lawmakers not only to resume getting paid, but also to receive retroactive pay for the months they stopped drawing a salary.
 Mr. Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, and Mr. Sampson, who represents Brooklyn, work for powerful law firms that offer generous compensation.
 How much income Mr. Silver earns from Weitz & Luxenberg, the giant Manhattan personal injury firm, or Mr. Sampson derives from Belluck & Fox, another large Manhattan personal injury firm, is a mystery since state ethics rules do not require lawmakers to specify outside income.
   “Sampson and Silver, they are doing very well,” said Assemblyman José Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, who has had to use his wife’s pension to help pay their rent and a car loan. “They don’t need their paycheck. We depend on our salaries to pay our rent.”
    For his part, Mr. Sampson said he appreciated that some lawmakers were facing hardships.
   “I am concerned for my members and their ability to pay bills and meet their obligations like families across the state,” he said. “We are working toward a final and responsible budget.”
    In a statement, Mr. Silver said much the same. “It is unfortunate that they have been so deeply impacted,” he said.
    The law withholding pay from legislators for not enacting an on-time budget, enacted in 1998, was meant to encourage them to fulfill one of their basic responsibilities. California is the only other state that imposes a similar sanction, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.For some government watchdogs, there is no more telling measure of how dysfunctional Albany has become than that even when its self-interest is at stake, the Legislature cannot perform.
   “A number of nonprofits, contractors and other people whose livelihood depend on the state budget have also been denied payments,” said Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union. “If others have to wait to get their money, then so should the legislators.”
    While lawmakers have approved $135.7 billion in spending, the Senate has yet to agree to a final revenue bill that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees to cover the spending. A chief reason is a dispute among Gov. David A. Paterson, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Silver over how to provide for a likely shortfall of up to $1 billion in federal Medicaid financing.
    That may seem like a relatively small amount of money given the size of the state’s budget, but it leaves the budget technically unfinished. Legislators, meanwhile, have left Albany, and they have given no signs that they are planning to return anytime soon.
    Mr. Paterson is not affected by the no-pay rule. He continues to draw paychecks on his $179,000 annual salary. The governor, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
    Trying to pinpoint how many lawmakers have second sources of income is a challenge because ethics rules do not require them to reveal whether certain positions, like board memberships, are paid. But an analysis of ethics disclosure forms by the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government watchdog, indicated that 105 lawmakers have other sources of income.
    Aside from their base pay, lawmakers also earn more if they serve in leadership positions or as committee chairmen. As speaker, Mr. Silver collects an extra $41,500, though Mr. Sampson does not get anything more as Senate leader.
    Senator Darrel J. Aubertine, a Democrat who represents several rural counties upstate, runs a farm that does not yield much of a profit. And though his wife is a real estate agent, their household budget requires two incomes. The disappearance of his Albany paycheck has meant depleting his savings and taking out loans to pay for college tuition for his son, his mortgage and a car loan.
   “We’re just like any other family,” Mr. Aubertine said. “If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have a paycheck for four months, that certainly would make things difficult.”



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Address: Room 304, Kingtop Building B (Second Stage Building, Software Zone), No.1819, Lvling Road, Siming Distrtict, Xiamen City TEL:0592-5111002 Hotline:4000-321-580 Wells Xiamen Human Resource Management Co., Ltd. E-mail: Congratulations Wells housewarming Technical support: Xiamen Peng You
维尔斯(Weshr)公司是2003年在新加坡成立,2006年初在中国厦门设立厦门维尔斯人力资源管理有限公司,并作为集团公司总部所在地. 维尔斯公司拥有中国猎头行业内一流的中高端精英动态人才库的猎头运营机构,独资创建了多家中国知名的多层次人才收录网站—— 厦门猎头网、福建猎头网、 广东猎头网 www.gdlietou.com及人事代理网 www.xmlw.net等知名并具备一定影响力的网站