Pay Raise for New York State Legislature?
July 24th 2012 · 0 Comments
Albany, NY – Despite the fiscal situation in state government and the political risks of such an unpopular move, there’s a quiet movement in Albany to increase the pay of the State Legislature.
It’s the secret deal that nobody wants to really talk about until after the November elections — raising lawmakers’ salaries to $100,000 or more, which would make them the highest paid legislators in the nation.
State Senators and members of the Assembly currently earn $79,500-a-year base pay, although most make $10,000 to $40,000 more in stipends for running committees and filling party jobs such as Majority Whip. Most also collect about $170 a day for work in Albany or away from home at public hearings.
There’s been no public calls for such a raise, especially leading up to this year’s important elections where all 212 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have tried to ignore reporters’ questions for months on whether a pay raise is planned for the expected special session in late November or December, after the elections. But the cat may have been let out of the bag when retiring Assemblyman Daniel Burling said, “I’ll be back in December to vote on your pay raise!” in his farewell address, to wild applause, during the final night of the regular session on June 21.
That’s the general procedure for pay raises in the past. The Legislature hasn’t received a pay raise in 13 years. Under law, a sitting Legislature can’t raise its own pay, but it can do it as late as Dec. 31 and have it effective for what will technically be the next Legislature when it opens the 2013 session in January.
Many believe Cuomo may use this as an opportunity to push through several pieces of legislation that he’s been unable to pass. Top on the list is public financing of political campaigns. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been unable to pass the minimum wage increase through the Senate, while Senate Leader Dean Skelos has been pushing for tax breaks for employers into law.
“There have been no discussions about a pay raise,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told The Associated Press.
State judges’ raises have traditionally been tied to Legislative raises, but in a separate deal pushed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, the judiciary received raises of various sizes this year.
Cuomo has complained in interviews about how difficult it is to get top-shelf talent to work in Albany for the low six-figure pay offered in the executive branch. The governor’s base salary is $179,000 and, as with his Commissioners, the pay is set in law until it’s raised by the Legislature.
This year, Siena College found 67 percent of respondents opposed a raise for members of the state Legislature and 74 percent opposed a pay raise for the Governor.
Pay for state legislators varies widely across the nation, from $95,000 per year in California to $200 in New Hampshire, with no per diem stipend for session days in New Hampshire. State legislators in South Carolina make roughly $14,500 per year, close to the pay for a member of the Utica Common Council.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-116, says he would not vote for a pay raise in this climate. Brindisi was one of just four Democrats in the Assembly to vote against raising the minimum wage and said it would be unfair to his constituents to then vote for a raise for himself. “This is not a good time for us to be considering a pay raise when we face so many difficulties with the economy and jobs,” Brindisi said.