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The Legislature's image machine

Something to contemplate in the face of news the state is now facing a $12.5 billion deficit next year ...

Many state Senators, and some Assembly members, have a press spokesman on their office staff. In addition, the Senate spent $1 million last budget year to employ 15 in its central press offices, and another 20 people and $1.3 million in something called the "Senate Communications/Director's Office." The boss, John McArdle, made $180,000 last year. Plus a state car.

That's just the beginning.

MegaphoneBoth chambers operate a variety of "communication" services. They employ web site designers, graphic artists, photographers, television producers, event coordinators and the like.

The Senate employs no fewer than seven photographers, including four full-timers, who make up to $42,600. I can't imagine there's enough work to keep them busy during the session, much less the other seven or eight months of the year.

The Assembly, not to be undone, has a "Radio/TV and Photography" department. Two of them, actually, one for the Democrats, another for the Republicans. They employ only one photographer, but 26 other people, at a cost of $1.5 million last budget year. Among the job titles: Reporter.

I think not.

Add up all the assorted PR functions and you have 87.5 jobs and $5.3 million in spending on the Senate side and 106.5 jobs and $5.5 million in the Assembly.

But wait, there's more.

We've also got mail and printing services, which produce and mail newsletters for legislators among a wider range of activities. The Senate operation employed 55.5 workers last year and spent $5.4 million. The Assembly had a staff of 66 and spent $8 million.

This indirect spending, not included in the expenses allocated to individual legislators, averages up to $155,000 per senator and $90,000 per Assembly member. It's little wonder why more than 95 percent of incumbents win re-election.

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State government
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