ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — State lawmakers will be returning to the Capitol for a special session on Thursday. What’s on the agenda? A proposed $32,000 pay raise for lawmakers. “This is one of those Albany, ‘Who the hell knows what’s gonna happen moments’ because there’s all this deal-making going on around legislation that was hard fought during the legislative session,” said John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group.
The bill was introduced by both leaders in the Senate and Assembly. New York lawmakers are currently at a base pay of $110,000. Kaehny said the legislature has wanted a pay raise for a long time. In 2018, a pay raise commission was created to oversee ethics involving a pay increase. “…That said, okay in exchange for a pay raise, you have to do some things to reduce corruption risks and that includes reducing outside income and banning employment as a lawyer or other fiduciary and a bunch of things,” said Kaehny.
But that commission no longer exists. Right now there is no cap on outside income for lawmakers. If the bill is passed, it would limit outside income to $35,000. Kaehny said this also gives the Governor more leverage when it comes to vetoing bills. “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is really another what we call ‘Big Ugly’ where all of these bills are going to be looked at in the context of the Governor signing this pay raise. The legislature is taking all the political risk and it’s easy for the Governor to veto or put up a stink, she’d probably get support from the public on that,” said Kaehny.
In a tweet, the New York State Legislative Workers United said: “There are staffers among us who make $32,000 a year serving the people of New York. The marathon budget and earlier special session have built up overtime hours that are never going to be paid out. This time, words of thanks are not enough.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Pat Fayhe said she wasn’t seeking a pay raise and that those who spearheaded the effort come from New York City area. “Cost of living up here is much, much more manageable. I think what is driving this is that the New York City Council makes over $150,000. So I am sympathetic towards some of the city members, but the salary that we currently have … I was quite accepting up,” said Fayh.
Watchdog groups oppose the pay raise unless it’s accompanied by reform that the 2018 Commission recommended. If passed, the provision would not take effect until 2025.