Andrew Cuomo's last big payday? Taxpayers may fund $50,000 parachute for disgraced NY guv
Disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may be on his way out, but he could get off easy according to one expert. Once he leaves office, Cuomo is eligible for a pension of $4,222 per month, or $50,662 a year for the rest of his life. By all indications, taxpayers could be footing that bill for Cuomo, unless the New York courts intervene. It's all part of a very clever 'Public Integrity Reform Act' that Cuomo himself approved in 2011.
On August 10, the embattled governor finally announced he was stepping down, after days of pressure from Democratic lawmakers both locally, and nationally. He will be replaced by Kathy Hochul, who is set to become New York's first-ever female governor. The road to get to this point hasn't been smooth though. For days, Cuomo refused to resign despite calls to do so by even President Joe Biden.
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It took a special mix of public pressure, combined with the public report by the Attorney General and a lawsuit by one of his accusers to get Cuomo to cave in. The resignation was widely celebrated as a big victory by activists, but for Cuomo it means little. His political career may be over, but he's got a cushy $5m net worth to bank on, and to top it up, there's the pension to consider.
Is Cuomo eligible for a pension?
The unfortunate news is yes, Cuomo is very much eligible for his massive pension of over $50,000. He'll get that windfall thanks to 15 years of service to the state - 11 years as governor and four years as attorney general. That's thanks to the 2011 act Cuomo signed in his first year as Governor. Under the act, a resignation for wrongdoing or impeachment does not trigger a revoking of an official's pension. Since Cuomo resigned before he could be impeached, he fulfills that criteria. "if you’re wondering, Cuomo would be eligible for his full pension, at taxpayer expense, for the rest of his life," Tim Hoefer, president and CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy told The New York Post.
There are, however, two ways to block Cuomo from receiving his pension. Under the reform act, a public official would not be eligible for pension if he/she was convicted of a felony. There is some hope in regard to this option. One accuser, Lindsey Boylan has announced she plans to sue Cuomo in court. Multiple district attorney's offices have also opened investigations into Cuomo's misconduct, leaving him open to being charged with a felony. It could however be months or even years before Cuomo is convicted, meaning he is free to collect his pension in the meantime.
The news has infuriated Cuomo's critics, but it has also proved to be the ideal catalyst for change. Reportedly, the New York state assembly has introduced legislation that would impose pension forfeiture for an impeached public official and apply it retroactively. However, it requires the passage of a constitutional amendment, which seems doubtful at the moment. If Hochul wants to though, she could push for the passage of the bill and block Cuomo from reaping the benefits of choosing to retire, instead of being impeached. It's unclear if the state assembly plans to go ahead with its impeachment proceedings now that Cuomo has resigned. Should Cuomo be impeached and convicted, he would then also lose access to his pension, if the proposed bill passes.
Both routes look quite complex and time-consuming, which means there's a good chance Cuomo will be able to collect his pension, at least for a few months if not years. It would add a considerable amount to his massive net worth if that is the case. That doesn't mean there won't be consequences, but the justice will certainly be delayed unless the courts and assembly act fast.