BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuesday's the day.
After years of bipartisan complaints in Albany, the people of New York will finally vote next week on a proposition that would allow judges to strip elected officials of their pensions, if they are convicted of a crime related to their jobs.
Proposition Two, which will appear on the back of the ballot, is supported by more than three-quarters of those surveyed in the state, according to a Siena College poll. If approved, it would take effect in Jan. 2018 and amend the state constitution, which currently protects officials elected prior to 2011 from losing their pensions due to a criminal conviction.
In a rare consensus, nearly every Democrat and Republican — save for a few — approved this referendum in both legislative chambers.
That includes Republican Chris Jacobs of Buffalo, who calls Proposition Two a no-brainer.
"It was passed in the Democratic Assembly and the Republican Senate, but now it seems like everyone's gone silent on this," Jacobs told 2 On Your Side. "No one is advocating for it now that it's on the ballot, and the only thing people are hearing about is the constitutional convention."
Jacobs, who campaigned on the pension forfeiture policy, said he wants to remind the public that Proposition One about the constitutional convention is a completely separate ballot initiative.
The Cuomo administration has been solidly on the record as supporting the pension forfeiture. In 2015, our reporting partners in Albany studied state records that showed the pension fund had paid out $4 million over 15 years to officials convicted of crimes. At the time, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul called that number "staggering."
A few downstate Senators voted against the amendment earlier this year because they said it was unfair to set a precedent of revoking pensions, regardless of the cause.
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat from Buffalo, voted in favor of the amendment this year but had previously voiced concerns about the impact on families if their head of household lost a pension. Peoples-Stokes told 2 On Your Side on Friday that she's now comforted by the fact that judges will be able to use leeway, if necessary, under this proposal.
"If folks vote for it next Tuesday," Jacobs said, "this can be the law of the land and we can be one step closer to having people trust their elected officials again."
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