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Albany Lawmakers May Get Their First Raise in 20 Years. Do They Deserve One?

Albany Lawmakers May Get Their First Raise in 20 Years. Do They Deserve One?


Outside jobs have also led to ethical and legal problems, including accusations of conflicts of interest and other criminal activity, most famously in the case of the former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver. In 2015, Mr. Silver was arrested and charged with federal corruption charges related to nearly $4 million in payoffs. The schemes involved Mr. Silver arranging grants and taking official actions in exchange for fees to Mr. Silver through two law firms he was associated with. He was convicted of the charges for a second time in May, and is awaiting sentencing.

How did the commission decide?

The four members of the commission are all numbers guys: the New York City comptroller, Scott M. Stringer; the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli; and two former comptrollers, William Thompson Jr. and H. Carl McCall. They have the power, thanks to a law passed as part of last year’s budget, to authorize a raise, with no additional legislative action. Bans on income or other measures, however, may require additional bills to be passed.

The panel also recommended a salary increase for the governor, bringing his pay to $250,000 by 2021; that would make Mr. Cuomo the highest-paid governor in the country. That recommendation is not binding and would need to be approved by a joint resolution of the Senate and Assembly.

After emerging from a closed-door executive session meeting on Thursday afternoon, the commissioners announced the framework of their recommendations. Mr. Thompson said the two decades of frozen salaries was unfair and “not the right thing.”

Even so, Mr. McCall recognized that the public would have to be convinced that the Legislature truly deserved a pay increase. “There’s no question that, over time, the Legislature has not always lived up to its full opportunities to convince the public that it is a hard-working, conscientious, honest organization,” he said.

How did they come up with the number?

It had been a long time since a raise, and groups like the New York Public Interest Research Group had estimated that simply giving the lawmakers an increase based on the Consumer Price Index would increase legislative salaries to a little more than $122,000. The actual recommendation of $130,000, by 2021, would bring lawmakers up to par with the current mean salary of economists in the state, according to the State Department of Labor.

And while that might seem like a lot to pay for part-time work — though lawmakers say that is a million-dollar misnomer — even those devoted to better government say it is time for a raise.



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