Albany Dems introduce funding bill for potential Cuomo impeachment

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Albany’s top Democrats — state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — introduced a bill that would authorize the Legislature dip into state coffers to pay for its sprawling impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The bill would authorize the Legislature to tap into a $156 million fund used to pay for lawsuits against the state — saving the Assembly from footing the bill for costs racked up by ongoing probe.

If the chamber draws up articles of impeachment against the governor, thus triggering a trial in the state Senate, the legislation would also cover the upper chamber’s costs.

“We want to ensure the legislature has the proper resources to conduct an investigation and trial. This already existing fund is the proper avenue to ensure that fact,” Mike Murphy, spokesman for the state Senate Democrats, told The Post Sunday.

The bill would be retroactive to April 1 as funding for the probe was not allocated in the $212 billion state budget, the state’s chief fiscal document.

The legislation — introduced late Saturday night — also signifies a priority for both Democratic leaders with less than a week left in the legislative session, slated to end June 10.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives a press conference in Manhattan.
Cuomo has come under fire from critics following allegations of sexual harassment and his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
REUTERS

But it would need Cuomo’s signature to become law — a spokesman did not return a request for comment by The Post when asked if the governor would approve the bill.

The Assembly has already set aside $250,000 through a contract with Davis Polk & Wardwell — the high-powered New York City law firm with four lawyers being paid $600 an hour each to help the body’s Judiciary Committee with the inquiry. 

That amount has been slammed by critics for being too low to fund the wide-ranging investigation into multiple allegations of sexual harassment against the governor, his administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes and the alleged misuse of state resources to write his $5.1 million pandemic-era memoir.  

Although Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Long Island) has said it’s an “initial cap” that may be adjusted “as needed,” it’s drawn ire from lawmakers like Ethics Committee Chairwoman state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who has suggested the miserly amount is meant to “buy more time for the governor.”

So far, three meetings have been held by the committee to discuss the probe since it was first launched in mid-March.

New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speak during a event at the Yonkers Police Athletic League Center in Yonkers.
The legislation was introduced late Saturday night by Heastie and Stewart-Cousins.
TIMOTHY A CLARY/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shu

Sources also told The Post Heastie has been unhappy with the idea that the Assembly would be on the hook to pay the full tab and has been looking for alternative funding avenues. 

“It was never intended for the Assembly to pay for it,” said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Tarrytown), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee.

“This is a proper way to do it. It’s an obligation for the state, not the Assembly or the Senate, to pay for it. We never allocated money in our operations budget to pay for it. This is an unanticipated expense.” 

Meanwhile taxpayers are already footing the bill for a separate, $2.5 million legal defense of Cuomo and his administration against a federal probe in his nursing home policy and book deal. 

Cuomo is also being investigated by Democratic state Attorney General Letitia James for the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct waged by former and current aides as well as other women.



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