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You Paid For It: How to save New York taxpayers $140 million a year

A bill before the Assembly would chop the size of the State Legislature by two-thirds to a single body of 75 members re-named the Senate (MGN Online photo)

Albany, N.Y. (WHAM) - It will cost $218 million to run the New York State Legislature this year.

A Perinton lawmaker says one simple thing will cut the bill by more than half.

"Saving more than $100 million a year could do a lot to lower property taxes and fix roads and bridges," Assemblyman Mark Johns (R) told 13 WHAM's Jane Flasch.

The New York Assembly authors nearly twice as many bills as Congress. Yet two-thirds of those bills never come up for a vote. A bill before the Assembly would chop the size of the State Legislature by two-thirds to a single body of 75 members re-named the Senate.

Johns says no sense using a scalpel when a chainsaw will do.

"We're down here spinning our wheels and passing a bunch of one-house bills that are never going to become law," Johns said. "It might be a better idea to move the state forward and usher in some real reform."

Nebraska went to a unicameral - or one-house - legislature in 1937 to save money after the Great Depression. It cut the number of lawmakers by 70 percent and the length of their work sessions in half.

That state also cut political gridlock by electing non-partisan lawmakers; a candidate's political party is not listed on the ballot. Johns' bill duplicates that idea and would theoretically save $140 million each year.

There is one potential problem.

"No professional politician is going to vote for a structural change that will put him or herself or their colleagues out of office," said James Bowers, chairman of the Political Science Department at St. John Fisher.

This is the same reason these same politicians don't have term limits, Bowers added.

Under the bill, the state would be divided into one district for every 260,000 people. This would reduce the legislature from 213 members to 75.

The move would require a change to the state constitution. An amendment calling for a constitutional convention appears on the ballot every ten years and comes up again in 2017.

Assemblyman Johns said voters who are already fed up with corrupt politicians going to prison have a new motivation to back a constitutional convention and changes that would allow his proposal to move ahead.

"They're sick of dysfunction, they're sick of corruption," Johns said.

Johns went on to add another benefit of having two thirds fewer members in the Legislature.

"There's 66 percent less of a chance of one of them going to prison," he said.


RELATED LINKS:

Nebraska Unicameral Legislature

Assemblyman Johns' Bill

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