New York State Exposed Follow-up: Lawmaker salary

Updated: 06/26/2014 5:22 PM
Created: 06/26/2014 7:30 AM WHEC.com
By: Scott Kilbury

Are your elected officials in Albany making too much money? They’re already some of the highest paid lawmakers in the country.

When we first told you what your state lawmakers earn, many of you were surprised. The base salary is almost $80,000 a year. Last year, we compared the salaries of New York lawmakers to other states. The New York State Assembly and Senate base salary of $79,500 is more than 47 other states in the nation. Only two states pay their state lawmakers more but their sessions are longer. New York’s legislative session runs through June. That’s a total of 62 days.

“I proposed that rather than increase in legislative salaries, we cut them in half.” Assembly member Bill Nojay of the 133rd District introduced legislation to cut lawmaker pay to $35,000 but like 9,000 other bills seen this year in the state legislature, it was never voted on. Nojay says the bill has been held for consideration which means they are sitting on it indefinitely.

We wanted to know who makes that decision and found out that it's Assemblyman Steve Englebright of Long Island. He's the chair of the Government Operations Committee. We reached out to his office five times but he never got back to us.

Nojay said, “Any effort to decrease legislative pay is blocked in committee. Sheldon Silver and the NYC Democrats don't want to hear about it.” In fact, Nojay says some of his democratic counterparts are looking for a pay increase after the November election. “There's rumor going about and a lot of people lobbying in Albany for them to come back after Election Day to increase their salaries and increase the number of days in session.”
Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says a compensation increase is not in the works even though there hasn't been a pay increase in 16 years. “I'm pretty certain the public is not going to be clamoring for us to raise our pay and I don't think they would care if it's been 16 years since we had our last raise or 25 or 50.”
Morelle did say the current salary isn't competitive enough to attract the kind of people the state needs in these leadership roles. Especially when local governments like New York City are paying six-figure salaries for their elected officials. “I think it is difficult to attract people to the legislature. If you really want really thoughtful, accomplished people, it's hard. Maybe not so much in upstate New York but certainly in the City of New York where the cost of living is dramatically higher than it is here. Going 16 years without some kind of compensation increase has been very difficult.”
Morelle says a model similar to the U.S. Congress that considers an increase based on cost of living should be used. If that were the case, a 2-percent margin since 1999 would put the salary over $100,000.

Nojay plans to introduce his bill for a legislative pay cut again next year.

If you'd like to reach out and let Assemblyman Steve Englebright know how you feel about cutting salaries you can call him at 631-751-3094 or email him at EngleS@assembly.state.ny.us.

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