The Republican candidate for New York governor, Marc Molinaro, is proposing term limits of two four-year terms for statewide offices, including the office of governor, and 12-year limits for state lawmakers.
Molinaro says it’s up to the governor of the state to set an example. The Dutchess County executive says if he is elected in November, he’d limit himself to two terms in office. He says it’s healthy for democracy.
“One of the reasons why New York has a more corrupted government than any other in the country is because there are entrenched people who think public service is about them, and not the people,” Molinaro said.
Molinaro says Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking a third term as governor, has amassed too much power and soured too many relationships in his eight years in the job, and should not even be seeking another four years.
“The tone around here is too toxic, too corrosive, too combative,” Molinaro said. “And, sadly, too stale.”
Many state lawmakers have been in office for decades. Molinaro says they would be grandfathered in, and would not immediately have to leave their jobs under his proposal.
But he says he’d push for the term limits of two four-year terms for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general, and six two-year terms for senators and Assembly members, as one of his first acts in office. He says he’d even put it into a “take it or leave it” budget resolution, if necessary.
“It will be the first package of bills that I present to the state legislature,” he said. “And I will require a vote one way or another.”
Though Governor Cuomo is seeking a third term in office, he put a two-term limit provision for statewide elected officials into his budget plan this year. The legislature did not accept the provision.
Molinaro, who has held public office for over two decades, beginning as mayor of his hometown of Tivoli as a teenager, and now is in his second term as Dutchess County executive. He is not advocating for a law to limit the terms of local government officials, saying that should be up to each individual community. But he thinks county executives should not serve more than three terms.
Some government reform groups support term limits.
Citizens Union’s Ethan Geringer-Sameth says his group decided to endorse term limits for governor, lieutenant governor and state legislators when it was advocating for a statewide Constitutional Convention in 2017. Voters would have the option of revisiting the policy in 20 years. The Constitutional Convention was rejected by voters and never happened. But he says two terms should be enough for a governor to accomplish what he or she needs to do.
“Eight years is quite a long time,” Geringer-Sameth said.
But Jennifer Wilson, with the League of Women Voters, says it’s better to first expand New Yorkers’ access to voting, by enacting early voting and making it easier to register to vote. She says ending gerrymandered legislative districts designed to protect incumbents would also help.
“We’d be a totally different state,” Wilson said.
Bills to open up voting in New York remain stalled in the Senate.