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The Cost of the Extra Days of Deliberations in Albany

Friday, June 24, 2011

When the New York State legislature passed the budget by their March 31 deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo said it was an achievement.

"Tonight the Legislature not only passed an on-time budget, but a historic and transformational budget for the people of the state of New York," Governor Cuomo said. "It was an invaluable public service for the state government to 'function' so well at this difficult time."

On Wednesday, as lawmakers blew past the scheduled day of session on June 20 with major pieces of legislation still pending, Cuomo took a different tack on Albany's speed.

"If it takes a little bit more time, it takes a little bit more time," the governor told reporters. "I would much rather get it right than rush it."

How much are these extra one-days-at-a-time costing New Yorkers?

According to the Comptroller's Office, when legislators come to Albany, any member outside a 35 mile radius of the Capitol can get reimbursement for transportation costs by plane, train or automobile. They also qualify for up to $165 per day to cover lodging and food.

With 62 senators and 150 assembly members, that's $34,980 a day in per diems alone.

It's also important to note that continuing the session isn't actually up to the governor. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos can keep the session running as long as they want. Technically, there is no rule mandating that the legislature adjourn on their scheduled end date. So as long as the legislators want to stay in session, they can. Only after they decide to formally end the session can the governor call a special session and order lawmakers all back to work, and even then, they don't actually have to vote. 

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