ALBANY — A Queens state assemblywoman was the travel expense queen of the Legislature during the recently concluded six-month legislative session.
Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, a Democrat, was the only lawmaker in the Legislature whose travel expense reimbursements topped $20,000 during the first six months of the year, new records released Thursday by the state Controller’s office show.
Cook, who did not return a call for comment, was reimbursed $20,246, including $16,938 for overnight stays and meals in Albany and $3,308 for mileage and tolls.
Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Suffolk County) was first in the Senate, and second in the Legislature. He received $19,739, including $13,050 for lodging and $5,213 for mileage and tolls.
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“Some years you’re higher on the list, some years you’re lower,” Boyle said. “It really depends on how many meetings you have on non-session days. I usually go up on Sunday nights so I’m there first thing Monday morning.”
All told, 16 Assembly members and five senators in the 213-member Legislature received at least $16,000 in travel reimbursements through June.
After Cook, the other Assembly high earners were Harry Bronson (D-Rochester), who received $19,503, Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester County) $18,386, and Felix Ortiz $18,325.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie received $16,806 for travel expenses.
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Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) had the second highest total after Boyle — $16,916. She was followed by Sens. Robert Ortt (R-Niagara Falls) $16,586, and Patrick Gallivan (R-Erie County) $16,538.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) was reimbursed $10,734 for travel expenses.
Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, called the high reimbursement numbers “mind-boggling.”
He noted the Legislature was only in session 57 days during the session that began in January and ended in June.
Lawmakers are entitled to a $172 per-diem payment for each night they spend in Albany.
Savino was unapologetic, saying during her 12 years in the Senate she has missed a total of two session days, once when she was in the hospital and once for her grandmother’s funeral.
She says she attended every budget hearing, even when the Legislature as a whole was out of session.
“We’re entitled to be reimbursed for the time we come back and forth,” Savino said.
Noting that some lawmakers were convicted of putting in for false reimbursements, she added that “we are not entitled to be reimbursed for the time we’re not there. “
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