Lawmakers call on Paterson to support reform bill

Bill Perkins

Lawmakers call on Paterson to support reform bill

August 16, 2009 by The Associated Press / BY SUZANNE MA (Associated Press Writer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Two state lawmakers are urging Gov. David Paterson to sign a reform bill that they say will impose transparency and openness on public agencies.

Sen. Bill Perkins of Harlem and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester said at a news conference Sunday that they are waging war on what Brodsky called a "Soviet-style bureaucracy" where state authorities have long been plagued by scandal and allegations of secrecy.

Signing the bill is an opportunity for Paterson to "return to his roots" as an advocate for reform, Perkins said.

The legislation would impose fiscal controls on the state authorities that can borrow and spend large sums of money, set fares and tolls and sell state assets such as property development rights.

But it's unclear whether the governor will sign the bill, which has passed both the state Senate and Assembly. The lawmakers said they believe the governor supports their bill, but that he is facing resistance within his administration and from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A spokesman for the governor told The Associated Press on Sunday that the governor supports reform but wants to make sure the bill won't result in "added costs to taxpayers or stifling job growth through unnecessary delays to critical economic development projects."

The new measure would also establish an independent authorities budget office, give the state comptroller oversight for contracts exceeding $1 million, hold board members more accountable, provide whistleblower protections and strengthen rules on disposing property.

The lawmakers cited previous increases to the New York City subway fares when it wasn't clear they were necessary and how the development rights on the Erie Canal were sold to a political insider for a mere $30,000. And they scrutinized the financing of Yankee Stadium.

"This bill is as American as apple pie," said Brodsky, who sponsored the measure in the Assembly and has been working for its approval for years. "We're not going to let this be hijacked by people who feel threatened by reform."

The lawmakers strongly criticized Bloomberg on Sunday for his opposition to the bill.

"This is a political power struggle. It's about the needs of the people versus the power of the mayor," Brodsky said.

But a spokesman from Bloomberg's office told The Associated Press on Sunday that while the mayor favors reform, the proposed bill has serious flaws: Public land would be sold at a high price, "limiting opportunities to make sure projects include public uses like affordable housing, community space and targeted job creation."

Perkins urged the governor to "do the right thing."

"The governor has always been a voice for reform," said Perkins, who succeeded Paterson as a senator in the 30th District, which includes Harlem. "It seems to be quite out of character that he would turn his back on what he nourished."