In 3 weeks, your state lawmaker becomes the highest paid in America

December 11, 2018 06:46 PM

In three weeks, New York state lawmakers will become the highest paid in the land and the governor will get a big raise too.The final report of the state's pay raise committee got delivered to the governor and legislature on Monday. 

And on Tuesday, News10NBC read the report.


Click here to read the committee's full report. 

The base pay for every state lawmaker is $79,500. Just about every single lawmaker gets an extra $9,000 to $12,500 for leading a committee. It's called a stipend.

Here's how the new pay works.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the base salary jumps to $110,000. 

On Jan. 1, 2020, it goes to $120,000. On Jan. 1, 2021, the lawmaker pay reaches $130,000. 

In exchange, all those stipends, except for the top leadership positions, go away.The committee recommends that the governor's salary jumps from $179,000 to $250,000 by 2021. The report says the pay raises only kick in if the governor and legislature pass a budget on time which is April 1. 

News10NBC reached the chair of the pay raise committee, H. Carl McCall, on the phone. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "As far as you're concerned, is the committee's recommendation final? Is it law?"

H. Carl McCall, chair of Compensation Committee: "According to the law that created the committee, we are supposed to come forward with findings. And according to the law, when we do that, that automatically becomes law as of Jan. 1."

There is another catch to the pay raise -- a cap on outside income. And that factor affects a local lawmaker more than any other in the state. 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley represents thousands of people between Rochester and Buffalo. He makes so much money running his insurance business that he might be forced to quit his Assembly seat because of the income cap.  

If you talk to reform groups in New York, a cap on outside income is what they want. It's been the rule in Congress for years. The pay raise recommendation includes a cap of $18,000. 

Brean: "You do stand to lose a ton of money, more than any other legislator. And I'm wondering if you'd have to leave the legislature then, if that rule went into effect."

Steve Hawley, NYS Assemblyman: "If the commissions's recommendations and any court battles that ensue found that to be true, I have an occupation and I have my clients and I have my staff and that's where I would be, then known as a former state assemblyman.

In his ethics disclosure, Hawley says the income from his insurance business is between $350,000 and $450,000, the highest of any lawmaker in the state. He doesn't think outside money is the root of corruption. But the committee on pay raises does. Thirty state lawmakers have been charged or jailed for bad acts in the last 20 years. 

McCall: "It's going to solve the problem of, when there's an appearance between a legislator's responsibility and his or her service to some outside party that constitutes a problem." 

Brean: "It might cause some lawmakers, including a couple in our area, to leave the body because of how much money they make on the outside."

McCall: "Well the fact is, they shouldn't be making money on the outside if in fact their job is to be a legislator."

The cap on outside income doesn't start for a year, so lawmakers who make significant income have 12 months to figure out what they want to do. 

Here's what your state lawmaker's outside income is, and where he and she stands on the pay raise.

Some lawmakers did not provide a statement by the deadline of this story.

Sen. Rich Funke: Outside income: $0.

"Had this issue been put to the floor for a vote, I would have voted no to a pay increase. The pay commission has done it's due diligence, so I will respect their recommendation." 

Sen. Funke says the cap on outside income "will discourage successful private sector individuals from entering public service."

Assemblyman Harry Bronson: Outside income: $5,000 to $20,000.

"To remove the politics from this decision, the Executive, the Assembly and the Senate agreed in the state budget to create an independent commission to consider changes to the compensation lawmakers and members of the Executive branch receive. This commission was composed of current and former government officials with extensive experience dealing with financial issues in New York State, including our current Comptroller, and they decided that after 20 years without a pay raise, an increase was warranted. Accompanying these recommended increases are long awaited reforms the Assembly has fought for, including limiting the outside income. In addition, the reforms eliminate leadership stipends with the exception of the most high-level legislative leaders who have increased responsibilities within our government. I support these reforms, which are also supported by good government groups such as Common Cause NY, Reinvent Albany, and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). I am sensitive to and aware of the financial struggles faced by many of New York's families, which is why I will continue to lead the fight in Albany to increase funding for our public schools, community colleges, and skills training and workforce development programs that will help our families succeed."

Sen. Pam Helming: Outside income: $0.

Sen. Joe Robach: Outside income: $0.

"This is certainly a different process then had been previously used for changes to legislative pay, however, if this was brought to the floor for a vote, I would vote no."

Assemblyman Peter Lawrence: Outside income: $0.

"I have been consistent in my opposition to a legislative pay increase. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be coming together to solve real problems within our state. We need to win back the public's trust and this move by the compensation committee accomplishes just the opposite. I believe that any pay increase should be presented in a stand-alone bill and voted up or down with each legislator taking ownership of their vote."

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer: Outside income: $120,000 to $170,000.

Sen. Robert Ortt: Outside income: $0.

"I have never advocated for a pay increase, especially with so many hard-working New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet. I ran for office knowing the salary of my position and I accepted that. This past year, I voted against the budget bill that created the pay commission, and I already abide by the reforms recommended by the commission. Regardless of the salary, I will continue to dedicate my full attention to representing the people of my district in the same manner as I always have."

Sen. Patrick Gallivan: Outside income: $1,000 - $5,000.

"I supported the creation of an independent and outside pay commission because the idea of elected officials deciding on pay raises for themselves is unseemly and awkward.  In the past, similar commissions determined that raises were not warranted and I accepted those decisions.  Likewise, I accept the recommendation of the current commission regarding pay and other compensation reform." 

Assemblyman Mark Johns: Outside income: $0.

"I voted against the pay raise commission and was one of only two members to speak out against it on the floor of the Assembly. I do believe that eliminating stipends (lulus) is a good reform measure but I have other reform bills that would go much further in terms of reforming our government so it better serves the people and saves hundreds of millions of dollars annually."

Assemblyman David Gantt: Outside income: $35,000 to $140,000.

(This is in the form of rent and rent is not included in the capped outside income.)

Assemblyman Brian Kolb: Outside income: $0.

"I voted against establishing the pay commission. Their authority has always been constitutionally questionable. The recommendations are even more dubious. They've overreached their authority. Linking pay increases to on-time budgets basically turns the already-awful budget negotiating process into a back-room bribe. The outside income limit disqualifies educators, farmers, small-business owners and other lifetime professionals from serving their constituents. We're moving away from citizen-legislators and encouraging more career politicians. It does not seem coincidental that the commission, while setting the stage for turmoil and turnover in the Legislature, recommended large salary increases for Andrew Cuomo and his political appointees without such restrictions or 'performance' requirements.  Fundamental changes like this must be done with full debates, voices and votes from 213 legislators. A decision of this magnitude should not be left to four men in a room. This was an endeavor that needed to produce clarity. Instead it created greater confusion. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the end of the process." 


Berkeley Brean

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