New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie gets new SUV courtesy of taxpayers — just weeks after replacing Sheldon Silver


http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/assembly-speaker-heastie-new-car-courtesy-taxpayers-article-1.2151564

New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has quickly learned about the perks of power – higher pay, a bigger office, and now an expensive set of wheels courtesy of taxpayers.

Heastie, who became speaker only last month, is cruising in a brand-new, publicly funded black 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.

The Assembly doled out $39,448 just weeks after Heastie took over in early February, spokesman Michael Whyland confirmed.

According to Jeep’s website, the Grand Cherokee Limited “brings just the right amount of finery to every excursion, adding features like Capri leather-trimmed seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, 18-inch polished-aluminum wheels, dual exhaust, Power Liftgate and ParkView® Rear Back Up Camera.”

The previous speaker, Sheldon Silver, was driving a less flashy 2011 Ford Taurus with only about 40,000 miles on it.

The purchase of the pricey SUV for Heastie raised eyebrows, particularly given the relatively low mileage on Silver’s car.

“The speaker’s position is a powerful one, but it shouldn’t come with a platinum card,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Whyland defended it.

“In his role as speaker of the Assembly he will be traveling across the state throughout the year as well as back and forth to Albany from his (Bronx) district,” Whyland said.

Silver still has possession of his car, but is set to soon relinquish it after receiving a written communication from the Assembly asking him to do so, Whyland said.

Rather than going to Heastie, Silver’s Ford Taurus will become one of the chamber’s pool cars, which are used by those not regularly assigned a vehicle, Whyland said.

Heastie's publicly funded 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited raised some eyebrows.

Heastie’s publicly funded 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited raised some eyebrows.

“We are phasing out older vehicles that have high miles and others will become pool cars,” he said.

As speaker, Heastie receives a $41,500 stipend above his base $79,500 legislative salary. His annual stipend as Labor Committee chairman had been $14,000.

Heastie also now has a huge staff and several suites of offices in Albany and Manhattan.

When he became Assembly leader, Heastie preached the importance of ethics reform and accountability.

“We have to make sure that tax money is spent carefully and transparently,” he said.

Even before taking the helm, Heastie’s per diem and travel reimbursement ranked third in the legislative body, the state Controller’s office has found.

Heastie is not the only Assembly member to have use of a state-owned car.

“There are members in both parties who are assigned vehicles,” Whyland said.

Besides Heastie, two Assembly Democrats and eight Republicans have cars that run on taxpayer dollars.

In addition, there are four pool cars for each party, Whyland said.

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