Term limits would help

It’s no secret New York state government has a problem with corruption. This month, scandals in the state Legislature involving alleged bribery and influence peddling resulted in the arrests of a state senator and a state assemblyman.

While it’s nice to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials taking the problem seriously, their proposals may not go far enough to reduce corruption. Term limits, however, would be a strong, simple step.

A package of measures announced this week by Cuomo would create a new class of pubic corruption crimes. Those crimes would include bribing a public servant, corrupting the government and failing to report a bribe or bribe attempt. Politicians could face a misdemeanor charge for failing to report corruption by a colleague.

Cuomo’s Public Trust?Act would impose tougher jail sentences on people who misuse public funds and permanently bar those convicted of public-corruption offenses from holding any elected or civil office, lobbying, contracting, receiving state funding or doing business with the state.

Cuomo also has raised the possibility of making the legislators full-time, which could mean paying them more. We don’t like the idea of paying more to legislators – who receive a base salary of $79,500 for a part-time job – but we do like some of the proposals in the Public Trust Act.

However, none of them go after a chief cause of corruption: the power many of our elected officials accumulate after years of being in office. Term limits would be a good way to tackle that problem.

Representatives have a greater chance of abusing power when they are returned to office term after term. In some cases, large campaign war chests nearly guarantee longtime incumbents’ victories.

Term limits would decrease politicians’ individual influence and help discourage attempts at bribery and other illicit activity.

Some of the proposals from the governor may help curb corruption, but limiting office terms may be more effective.