Hawley, Corwin make far more in outside income than proposed limit

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Governor wants to limit outside-income for state legislators to 15 percent of base salary

Provided photo – Steve Hawley speaks during a rally in Canandaigua last month for more state funding for roads, bridges and infrastructure. A report on outside-income for state legislators shows Hawley earns the most of all 213 members of the State Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to limit state legislators’ outside income to no more than 15 percent of their base salary, currently $79,500. That limit is part of his ethics reform package for state legislators, following years of scandal in the state capitol.

If that limit is approved by the Legislature, state legislators could earn no more than $11,925 in outside income each year, based on the $79,500 base salary.

Two members of the State Assembly who both have districts that include portions of Orleans County make far more in outside income that the limits proposed by the governor.

Steve Hawley of Batavia owns The Insurance Center, Stephen M. Hawley and Associates in Batavia. He reported a net personal income of $450,000 to $550,000 as owner of the insurance company in 2014. That was more outside income than any other state legislator. Hawley’s 139th District includes all of Genesee, most of Orleans and a portion of Monroe County.

Jane Corwin of Clarence represents the Town of Shelby, as well as portions of Erie and Niagara counties in the 144th District. She reported an outside income of $100,000 to $150,000 in 2014 for serving as a director for Gibraltar Industries.

Hawley’s outside income at $450,000 minimum is more than double the next highest state legislator, Sen. Michael Nozzolio at $203,000. Nozzolio works as an attorney for the Harris Beach lawfirm.

Common Cause reviewed the disclosure forms submitted by lawmakers for 2014. (Click here to see the report.)

Some of the legislators, such as Rob Ortt, did not serve in the State Legislature in 2014. He was the mayor of North Tonawanda and was elected state senator in November 2014, replacing the retiring George Maziarz. Ortt took office as senator in January 2015.

Of 183 legislators elected prior to 2014, 110 or about 60 percent did not have any outside income and consider their role as assemblyman or state senator a full-time job, Common Cause reported.

The other 40 percent, or 73 of 183, report supplemental income with an average outside income between $47,216 to $80,216.

“The Legislature’s part-time structure allows professionals from diverse industries and backgrounds to serve the public,” according to Cuomo’s policy book for 2016. “This offers the distinct advantage of legislators who are not career politicians but, instead, have a diverse set of interests and experiences. To strike the right balance, the Governor proposes that New York State adopt limits on outside income akin to the limits our federal government places on legislators’ outside income. The proposal will limit state legislators’ outside income to 15 percent of their base salary.”

Hawley issued this response last week to the governor’s proposal:

“Rather than trying to limit outside income as the governor proposed, the legislature should have a tighter schedule, stricter deadlines and cut salaries so that citizens become involved in politics for the right reasons. Many legislators used to be farmers, as the governor mentioned, so maybe we should actually work like farmers.”

Hawley has served as assemblyman for 10 years. He said he doesn’t quote insurance for school districts, towns, villages, fire departments or any other municipalities.

Hawley said he was investigated by the Moreland Commission, which found no corruption or ethical wrongdoing on his part in December 2013.

Hawley said he supports “stringent ethics reform” that would strip corrupt politicians of their pensions and retirement benefits.

“I also support the Public Officers Accountability Act, which would institute term limits for legislative leaders, restrict the use of campaign money, and ban corrupt officials from running for future office,” he said.

Hawley worked on the family farm before getting in the insurance business in 1991, growing it from 1 1/2 to nine employees, and from $250,000 in premium to more than $10 million in premium now, he told Gannett News Service.

“I am an honest representative of the people of New York and work 80 hours a week between growing and operating my small business and representing my district in Albany,” he said in a previous statement. “The chance to give back to my constituents and represent the families and businesses of Western New York is a distinct honor and means more to me than any monetary compensation I receive.”

Hawley told the Orleans Hub he believes the public benefits from citizen legislators who work other jobs and businesses. Having a business, while also serving as a state legislator, gives elected officials “a reality check” when debating legislation and the state budget, Hawley said.