Hostage negotiations over the coveted State Senate Majority Leader post officially ended Wednesday with Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger and the rest of his “Gang of Three” supporting Queens legislator Malcolm Smith for the job.
But Smith’s ascension to the throne did not come without compromise. Each Gang of Three member received committee chairmanships, with Kruger becoming the chair of the powerful Finance Committee, which comes with a whopping $34,000 stipend.
The bump in salary would make him one of the highest paid senators in Albany, falling just short of the majority, deputy majority and minority leaders.
Democrats regained control of the State Senate for the first time in 65 years in 2008 after obtaining 32 of the 62 seats. Republicans have the remaining seats.
Yet with such a thin margin, every vote was needed in the Democratic caucus to name Smith Majority Leader.
That’s when Kruger and fellow gang members created their independent caucus and demanded that no one — Republican or Democrat -- was going to get their vote unless their demands were met.
Changes included making the Senate more bi-partisan and the promotion of Hispanic empowerment among Senate members. The Gang of Three also wanted the Senate to hold off on voting for gay marriage for at least a year.
While Smith agreed to the changes, he had a hard time selling the package to his fellow Senate Democrats, many of whom said that they would rather be in the minority than to kowtow to Kruger’s demands, according to published reports.
Negotiations fractured in December, but further talks leading up to the majority leader vote helped mend fences before the New Year.
Speaking to this paper Wednesday, Kruger, the first Brooklyn Senator to be named Finance Chair, said he is returning to the borough with his head held high.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished,” said Kruger. “The three of us (myself and Bronx legislators Pedro Espada, Jr. and Ruben Diaz, Sr.) had a vision of reform that we negotiated in a fair and up-front manner. In the end it seemed obvious to us that the Democrats, having won the majority, were willing to forge those alliances, so we are proud to support Malcolm Smith as Majority Leader.”
Despite the sometimes down and dirty negotiations, Kruger said that his relationship with Smith was “solid.”
“The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire,” he said. “My relationship with the Majority Leader has been tested and it is only going to get stronger.”
With Smith named Majority Leader, all of the Brooklyn Democrats in the State Senate were named committee chairs, although none of them received the $34,000 stipend that Kruger did.
According to a recently released list of committee chair appointments, Fort Greene State Senator Velmanette Montgomery will head the Children and Families Committee, Crown Heights State Senator Eric Adams will lead the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, Flatbush State Senator Kevin Parker was named head of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee, newly elected Brooklyn Heights State Senator Daniel Squadron was chosen to lead the Cities Committee, Bensonhurst State Senator Diane Savino was named chair of the Civil Services and Pensions Committee and Canarsie State Senator John Sampson was named head of the Justice Committee.
The stipends for these committee chairmanships range between $12,500 and $18,000, officials said.
©2009 Community News Group
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