Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars goes towards cars for state Assembly members.

Last year, the state spent almost $300,000 of your tax money on cars issued to members of the state Assembly. There are 11 elected Assembly members, eight Republicans and three Democrats who are assigned state cars.

Critics question why they need them and whether taxpayers should be footing the bill.

Five days a week, Kris Wagner takes the bus from the city to her job at the Wendy’s restaurant in Pittsford. She says she simply can’t afford a car.

“It’s kind of expensive to own a car because you have to pay for the gas,” says Wagner. “You have to pay for the insurance and all that, so it’s kind of hard to actually own a car.”

But it’s not expensive if you’re an elite member of the New York State Assembly. According to data from the Empire Center — a conservative-leaning think tank based in Albany — 13 state-owned vehicles were assigned to the Assembly and you’re paying for it.

“As a taxpayer — and my money every week that I work very hard for every week — goes to pay for their car, and to me it’s very concerning and makes me kind of mad.”

Eleven of the cars are driven by legislators, eight are Republicans, and three are Democrats. The other two cars are driven by Assembly staff members. According to the Empire Center, the cars cost you, the taxpayer, $284,000 with an additional $21,000 for maintenance and repair, and $19,000 for gasoline.

Ken Girardin of the Empire Center says, “We should have a transparent process that explains why the taxpayers are footing the bill.”

Girardin says there doesn’t seem to be any strict criteria to determine who gets a car.

Brett Davidsen: “Is it a proper use of their tax dollars?”

Ken Girardin: “Well, it really invites the question as to why certain Assembly members get cars and others don’t. Taxpayers would be right to ask the question why they’re getting cars at all for a part-time job.”

According to the data: four local members of the Assembly have state-issued cars: Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Minority Leader Brian Kolb are driving the 2015 Chevy Traverse, Bob Oaks and Steve Hawley have 2011 Chevy Impalas. Only Kolb would agree to answer our questions about the cars. On the phone, Kolb defended the practice, saying the cars are assigned to those in specific leadership roles that require “extraordinary travel.”

He told News10NBC, “Leadership positions tend to do more that work on behalf of the conference in terms of dealing with issues across the state so and again, it’s really a nature of their jobs and functions.”

Brett Davidsen: “Could you say, ‘No thanks, we don’t want the cars?'”

Kolb: “Oh sure.”

But Kolb points out those Assembly members who don’t have cars receive reimbursement at $0.57 per mile for their official travel.

Brian Kolb: “So there is a cost whether you have a state vehicle or whether you’re using your personal vehicle. It’s no different than any business expense.”

Assemblyman Peter Lawrence doesn’t get a car. He says he doesn’t want one. He believes it’s worth looking into whether the current policy is in the taxpayers’ interest.

Lawrence says, “What are we getting for the money we’re spending? If it makes sense from a financial standpoint then I’m all for it. If it doesn’t, then let’s take a look at it and do something that will make it better.”

© 2015 WHEC


You may also like

Bill Requires Municipalities To Maintain Their Websites

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate. Read More

Albany’s ‘big ugly’ provides political cover, but has some benefits

“This has been one of the worst developments in the political process here in New York in modern history,” said E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy think tank and a former aide to Gov. George Pataki. “It really is corrosive of accountability and democracy and, implicitly, the constitution prohibits it.” Read More

Panel at LIA meeting knocks state single-payer health care bill

"Ninety-three hospitals would lose more than 10 percent of revenue," said Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative  Albany think tank. Read More

‘Pork’ Bill Hangs Over Other Issues in Albany

E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, questioned the need for these projects. His organization found recent SAM allocations paid for projects he deemed frivolous such as a skate park and a local highway garage. “It’s this huge mutual back-scratching,” he said. Read More

Capitol pressroom

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and EJ McMahon, Founder and Research Director of the Empire Center, shared their insights into the effects of the legislation and the political implications. Read More


Of the $508 million in pork awarded last year, most of it came from the State and Municipal Facilities program, which is widely derided as legislative slush fund, according to an analysis by the fiscally  conservative Empire Center for Public Policy. Read More

Report says move start of state fiscal year, add budget office

Moving the start of the state fiscal year to July 1 and establishing a Legislative Budget Office are among the recommendations of the Empire Center to improve accountability in the budget process. Read More

Lawmakers look to make New York even more litigious

A 2017 study by the Empire Center found liability costs in New York exceed $20 billion a year. If those costs were passed on to every household in the state — which really they are, in a way, because all affected organizations and insurers have to pass their costs on to their clients —- it would work out to be $2,700 annually. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries:

Press Inquiries:


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!