top of page
  • Writer's pictureKieran M. Lalor

Lalor: 10 Years In the Albany Swamp (Part 1)

January 2, 2023

Recently on his morning radio show Joe Piscopo asked me what I was most proud of at the end of my tenure in the Assembly. I remarked that I was proud “I never became part of the Albany swamp.” Since that interview I’ve been asked to elaborate.

In an ironic way, the slogan, “No better friend, no worse enemy,” which was popular among Marines when I served in Iraq, is also fitting for my time in the state legislature. Over the past decade, the New York taxpayer had no better friend. The self-dealing Albany career politicians had no worse enemy.

Leading From the Front on Spending and Taxation

Lawmakers of both parties love to spend tax dollars. Democrats are notorious and unapologetic wasteful spenders, a fact that has been well documented. Less well-known is that Albany Republicans are not much better, often running for reelection on supporting increased spending. For example, Republican legislators advocate for additional funding for schools, ignoring the fact that state, local and federal per pupil spending is already a mind-boggling $32,757 with subpar results. Public schools have also become leftist indoctrination factories.

For my first six years in the Assembly, the state Senate was controlled by Republicans who voted for Governor Cuomo’s wasteful budgets. Because our colleagues down the hall approved of the budget bills, many Assembly Republicans withheld their criticism of these Cuomo era budget and voted for them.

In the past four years since Republicans lost control of the state Senate, GOP legislators are reduced to railing and voting against the budget bills their minority status has made them powerless to stop. Then they fire off statements and post on social media about how they “delivered” for their districts and highlight popular appropriations that were concocted in secret by the corrupt “three men in a room” process.

I aggressively opposed and voted against every single budget bill in my time in Albany because they spent and taxed too much.

There is bipartisan agreement in the Capitol on spending to preserve the perks of office including taxpayer funded travel to Albany, meal money and hotel accommodations. Most lawmakers get a per mile reimbursement for the commute to Albany. But many in both parties get a state-owned take-home car and a gas card with no oversight of whether the car and the gas are used for state purposes.

The per diem rate is $172 for each night in Albany even if the lawmaker only lives an hour away. Until a provision I championed became law, a lawmaker didn’t even have to prove he was in Albany. Laughably, prior to the reform, it was based on the honor system.

There are always fundraisers at night where lawmakers can eat and imbibe for free. This works out well for politicians because any portion of a legislator’s per diem not spent goes in his pocket. Some enterprising lawmakers have used per diem payments as the sole source of funds to buy condos in Albany. Then they sell the property for a tidy profit when they leave the legislature.

I never took a penny of travel reimbursement or per diem, saving the taxpayers about a quarter million dollars. I also never hosted or attended the lobbyist-packed fundraisers so common in Albany and so contrary to good government of the people for the people.

For most of my time, shady so-called leadership stipends in the $10,000 a year range were handed out by party bosses to all Assembly Republicans and many Democrats. The New York Daily News editorial page noted, Only upstate Republican Kieran Lalor refuses the graft.”

Both Republicans and Democrats in Albany shamelessly support spending to protect incumbents such as $50,000 to more than $100,000 in taxpayer funded mail each year that is usually indistinguishable from campaign literature. I used a portion of the mail budget my first term, realized taxpayer-funded legislative mail was an affront to the taxpayer and never used it in the final four terms.

New York leads the nation in multi-billion-dollar corporate welfare boondoggles which enjoy bipartisan support year after year without even an attempt to demonstrate that taxpayers are getting an adequate return on their compulsory investment. Likewise, both parties feast on pork for their districts so they can cut ribbons and keep favored constituencies happy.

I opposed wasteful and often corruption inducing subsidies for hand-picked private corporations and refused to bring any bacon home to the district. Local political insiders in both parties desperate to spend tax dollars that don’t count against their local budget, blasted me. Residents appreciated my defense of their wallets and reelected me four times with wide margins.

For counties, cities, towns and villages in New York state to institute new taxes on their residents, they need their local lawmakers to carry and pass bills in Albany. For all the Republicans tough talk on taxation, nearly every Republican lawmaker joins with Democrats to tax everything from mortgages to hotel stays.

I never voted to increase state or local taxes and refused to carry tax bills even when local officials in my own party pressured me to do so.

Because Republican lawmakers can’t help but spend tax dollars to feather their nests and increase the odds of their reelection, they lack the credibility to effectively call out the Democrats on their wasteful spending. The result is a state budget twice the size of a more populous state like Florida and the downward spiral that currently engulfs our state economy.

Kieran M. Lalor represented Dutchess County in the New York State Assembly from 2013-2022.

Check back to this week for 10 Years In the Albany Swamp (Part 2)

229 views1 comment

תגובה אחת

02 בינו׳ 2023

Thank you for your service to us Kieran. We will miss you fighting for us in Albany.

bottom of page