Friday, January 26, 2007

What about Bob?

Bob Reilly could teach the nation's politicians a lot. The humble second-term state assemblyman from Latham stepped forward Thursday and doled out every last penny of his $72,000 legislative salary to charitable organizations around the region.

The former Albany County legislator and retired state Department of Education worker decided that his pension was enough for he and his wife to live. Such selflessness isn't a first for Reilly, who's given his salary away every year since being elected to the Legislature in 2004.

Reilly's annual act is, however, highly uncommon among the deep-pocket folk lining the Capitol, many of whom often find it more pertinent to give themselves a raise each year for their paltry 65 days at work in Albany. Boiled down, this amounts to about $6,076 per work week or $316,820 annually were they to work full-time. Not a bad haul for a crew largely comprised of former lawyers and businessmen, who largely rest easy with their personal contribution to a growing budget crisis in Albany.

So rather than throwing money into a new Hummer with all the bells and whistles to tear pavement up the Northway or on a down payment for a second summer home in the Hamptons, Reilly chose instead to give his share to some local non-profit agencies in the Capital Region. These are the same organizations that are on increasingly smaller budgets, thanks to fiscal mismanagement in Albany.

CARE, an organization trying to eliminate homelessness in Albany County recieved $8,000 of Reilly's salary, while $7,000 will go to support victims of domestic violence in Saratoga County. Regional food banks and pantries also got $8,000 to keep their shelves stocked.

State legislators could learn from this act, especially one noted money bag who barfed more than $1.4 million to seize his mantle in the senate during the 2004 election. But who could possibly blame Hollywood Joe for spending all that cash. After all, the incumbent Republican senate majority leader was running unopposed.

Then there's the state's esteemed senate delegation to Washington, who each rake in a paltry $165,200 per year for representing New York's interests. And it probably won't be too long until they're making more, under the cost-of-living-adjustment increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it. Since 2000, lawmakers have voted in favor of keeping this adjustment, which has ballooned their salaries from $98,400 in 1990 to the present figure. Now that's a cost of living increase few workers would argue with.

What is more disturbing is the number of federal legislators who could probably live lavishly off interest earned from their private fortunes. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is estimated have a net worth between $10 million and $50 million, ranking her the 14th richest among senators. Her much more modestly wealthy compatriot, Chuck Schumer is said to have a net worth of between $290,023 to $925,000, according to financial disclosure filings.

Not everyone in government is as fiscally stable to altruistically toss their salaries at charities, but it's a safe bet that many of them are. And when a low-level former state worker can safely practice what he preaches, then it's about time a few of these tycoons follow in his footsteps.


Blogger Les Clutter said...

The media usually takes a beating for what it doesn't cover but the coverage of Bob Reilly last night was nice to see for a change then some politician being investigated by the feds or some petty ass bickering with the other party.

1:51 PM  

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