New York lawmakers returned to the state capitol on Thursday just in time to give themselves a pleasant holiday gift: a salary hike that would make them the best-paid state politicians in the country.
A law voted during a special session will increase the base pay of the state Assembly and Senate members from $110,000 to $142,000, a 29% increase.
That would put them ahead of California’s state legislators, who, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, earn the most money in the country with an annual base salary of roughly $119,000 today.
But for the first time, there would be limitations on how much money New York’s legislators may make from side employment.
Starting in 2025, the outside income would be capped at $35,000. Pay above that from employment in the military, retirement programs, or investments would still be permitted.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins claimed that lawmakers deserved a pay hike to keep up with rising living expenses because they put in long hours all year long.
She declared, “It’s a full-time job.” “We have to raise wages sooner or later to afford to do the job.”
Rob Ortt, the leader of the Senate’s Republican party, declared that the rise was “patently disrespectful to the people we represent.”
In a statement, Ortt stated that Albany’s one-party ruling class “continues to put its mistaken priorities first.”
Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul has stated that she favors giving the Legislature a raise but has not indicated if she will approve the legislation.
The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to emails or texts that were left.
After the bill was introduced late on Monday, some watchdog and government transparency organizations claimed it wasn’t doing enough to control outside revenue.
Rachael Fauss, a senior policy advisor with the government oversight organization Reinvent Albany, stated that the public “truly deserves to know that their elected representatives are working exclusively for them and they do not have any other interests in mind.”
People who are U.S. For instance, members of Congress are prohibited from earning any outside income while serving in office if they practice a profession like law.
For several of New York’s top legislators, receiving outside revenue has presented ethical and legal challenges.
Sheldon Silver, a former assembly speaker, passed away in prison after being found guilty of engaging in a corrupt scheme in which he persuaded two real estate developers to refer clients to a legal firm in exchange for referral fees and then supported legislation that benefited the developers.
However, many states have a tradition of seeing the creation of laws as a part-time job rather than a career and have accepted the notion that a legislature should consist of ordinary people who work regular jobs outside of politics.
“Voters repeatedly told me during my campaign that we don’t want professional politicians. That is what this will lead to, according to Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, who represents a district in northern Albany.
Democratic assemblywoman Patricia Fahy claimed the pay increase would aid in keeping in-demand lawmakers who could command higher salaries in the private sector.
She claimed there had been an unhealthily high turnover, especially among downstate members.
The last wage increase for New York’s lawmakers occurred in 2018. It was their first raise in 20 years at the time.
The state compensation committee’s list of recommendations, which included a cap on outside earnings, helped to make that pay increase possible.
Although New York has a history of paying legislators more, this is the first instance of them taking matters into their own hands, according to Fauss.