Term Limits

Over the last 20 years, New York State has had two governors resign from office in disgrace, a third voluntarily choose not to run while engulfed in allegations of unethical and illegal behavior, a Comptroller convicted of corruption, an Attorney General resign over allegations of abuse, two Senate Majority Leaders convicted of corruption and a former Assembly Speaker die in prison.

The constant pursuit of power and the subsequent effort to maintain it is a key driver behind the rampant corruption that plagues New York State government. Career politicians, who often spend decades accumulating power, are motivated to do whatever it takes to maintain it, not act in the best interests of taxpayers.

It is time to reign in that power and place term limits on all statewide elected officials in New York. Doing so would increase trust and transparency in government and is wildly popular with voters, as Unite NY’s Voter Empowerment Index found deep, bipartisan support for enacting this commonsense reform.

How we got here

Term limits have been placed on 36 governors, mayors in eight of the largest ten cities in the country and 15 legislatures. Yet in New York, state elected officials are free to run as many times as they choose, as there has never been any term limits placed on state elected officials. In some cases, politicians are in office for more than four or five decades, and fight to maintain the power that comes with “public service.” This has contributed to New York’s well documented history of corruption, leading to countless officials stepping down or being convicted of crimes while serving in office.

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Why it’s a problem

New York’s history of corruption is rooted in efforts to gain and maintain power. The state is famously governed by “three men in a room” with power concentrated at the very top. This provides powerful incentives to do whatever it takes to keep and maintain this power and as a result voters are left with little choice, and no opportunity, to support candidates other than those chosen by party elites.

Once in office, politicians become addicted to raising massive amounts of money from special interests, discouraging competition, and cementing their place in office. This constant quest to stay in office also discourages officials from making hard decisions that may not be politically popular, but may be very necessary, for state government to function well for the people it is meant to serve.  If leaders had the freedom to do what’s right for voters instead of pursuing the next election, better outcomes would result.

What has to happen

Term limits provide more choices for more voices, allowing more candidates with fresh ideas and new perspectives run for, and serve, in office. New York State should pass legislation limiting every statewide elected official (Governor, Lt, Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller) to serve no more than three four-year terms in office.

Last year, New York’s current Governor, along with legislative leaders in both houses, called for term limits for statewide elected officials. In addition, major leaders in the Republican party have supported the same.  When both major parties agree on a needed reform, it is time to make it a reality.

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“Our political system isn’t broken.
It’s fixed.”

Katherine Gehl

“Our political system isn’t broken.
It’s fixed.”

Katherine Gehl

Unite NY is tracking legislation in New York that will drive real change and improve our democracy. Check these bills out and let your Senator or Assemblymember know you support this legislation too!  Use these links to find your NYS Senator or find your NYS Assemblymember.

Bill Number A.9095
AM: Wallace (D)
Imposes term limits for the offices of governor, comptroller and attorney-general.

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