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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul Says Speaker's Arrest Will Not Hinder State Budget Process

Lucas Willard

New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was in Glens Falls to discuss the governor’s budget proposal, but this morning’s arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was on the minds of many.

Hochul spoke to a packed crowd of local officials and members of the community at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls.

But after her address, reporters sought her opinion the arrest of Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was arraigned on federal corruption charges in Manhattan.

The Democratic Lieutenant Governor introduced Silver 24 hours before at Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address in Albany said Silver’s arrest will not affect the ability of the state to agree on a budget.

“Certainly there’s a process that’s got to work out. We are still focused on getting an on-time budget. The governor is very proud of working with the legislature for the past four years to accomplish that. That will continue to be our goal. We’re going to get it done,” said Hochul.

Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec of Queensbury disagreed, saying that the start of the session would be hindered without the speaker to designate committee assignments.

“Today historically is the first day of the budget process. Next week we’re going to be starting our budget hearings. Again, it’s difficult to have those without committee chairs assigned yet.”

Echoing Republicans around the state, Stec said in order to start the budget process it “only makes sense” for Silver to resign.

“Any delay in his resignation will just further complicate which is already an onerous task of coming up with a state budget.”

Republican State Senator Betty Little of the 45th district agreed that Silver’s arrest would hinder the budget process. Long one of the proverbial three men in the room during budget talks, Silver’s future in leadership, let alone the chamber, is unclear.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty but I do think that in his position as speaker having this going on affects his ability to lead the Assembly and to negotiate a budget,” said Little.

Governor Cuomo halted the actions of the anti-corruption Moreland Act Commission prematurely last year in a deal with lawmakers, and Silver’s arrest marks only the latest high-profile brush with the law among senior leadership in the capitol. But Hochul suggested there is a silver lining.

“I think that the circumstances of the last few days are just going to inspire people to want to continue the governor’s ethics reform, his reform that he’s proposing, and I believe that there’s a good chance of that occurring. The public should also know that they have a government that  is going to continue working for them in difficult times like this,” said Hochul. 

Assemblyman Stec offered his own ideas for ethics reform.

“The real opportunity here though is to finally say ‘This is our opportunity to enact real ethics reform.’ One of the things that my conference and myself have advocated for is a limit on term limits on leadership positions,” said Stec.

113th District Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner released a statement on Silver's arrest that reads in part:

“This is indeed a very challenging situation. I sincerely hope that the institution will prove itself larger than any one member, and that we will be able to move forward productively with the work that we were elected to do.”

Woerner also said she hopes the accusations against Silver are untrue, but also that she"will be at the front of the line to call for Speaker Silver’s resignation if these allegations are proven to be true." 

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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