Last week, the state Legislature held a joint session of the Assembly and Senate to vote on a Comptroller to replace Alan Hevesi for the remainder of his four-year term. I supported Martha Stark because she proved to be the finest and most qualified candidate of those recommended by the Independent Review Panel.
The process of appointing the new Comptroller, agreed upon by the governor and the legislature, gave candidates the opportunity to appear before a panel made up of former state comptrollers to argue their case as to why each believed he or she was most qualified to serve as Comptroller. The panel selected Stark and two others from a pool of 18. According to the agreed-upon process, the legislature was then to vote on one of those candidates.
Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli, who was not recommended by the panel, won the vote and will serve as New York State Comptroller until the end of 2010. Mr. DiNapoli is a proven leader and dedicated member of the Assembly who I trust will serve the people to the best of his abilities, but I could not support him with my vote out of respect for the process I agreed to uphold.
What concerns me most about the new comptroller’s appointment is that it was done by politicians in Albany and not the people of New York state. To fill future vacancies of statewide elected office, I support legislation to amend the State Constitution that would require the governor to appoint someone in the interim to serve until the next general election. The person elected would serve the remainder of the term and would be up for re-election in the subsequent gubernatorial election.
I believe strongly that the process of finding a replacement should be in the hands of the people. I am committed to fighting for passage of this legislation because it maintains the integrity of our democracy by letting the people decide who should represent them, not legislators behind closed doors.
With a Comptroller in place, I intend to work through the budget negotiations with the governor and my fellow legislators in the spirit of bi-partisanship and to serve the people of Western New York with efficiency and transparency. I look forward to working alongside Mr. DiNapoli to bring about a fair and on-time budget.