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NYS Exposed: What happened in 1999? The last pay raise for NYS lawmakers

November 29, 2018 11:37 PM

1999. 

That's the last time state lawmakers got a pay raise. Since then, 30 of them have either been fined or jailed because of misconduct. 

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That makes it hard to stomach a pay raise. 

As a new pay raise committee holds public hearings, News10NBC found that the pay raise rules are different than the last pay raise commission and so are a lot of the lawmakers. 

News10NBC was in Albany this week for the first public hearing of the New York state pay raise commission. News10NBC asked the men selected to make the pay raise decision, do lawmakers deserve one? 

Scott Stringer, commissioner: "We haven't discussed as a group where we come down on this."

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Right now, do you think they should get a pay raise?"

H. Carl MCall, commissioner: "Yes I do, but I think the interesting thing is at what level."

Tom Dinapoli, commissioner: "I think it's been overdue to have a serious conversation about what should be the appropriate level of pay and given 20 years it's not unreasonable to say there should be a pay raise."

Here are the numbers. 

The base pay of a state lawmaker is $79,500.

That's the third highest in the country. California and Pennsylvania pay more. 

The governor's salary is $179,000 which is also the third highest in the country. Governors in Pennsylvania and Tennessee make more. 

But how do you give raises to a government body racked with scandal and a governor's office with close aides going to prison?

How do you give a raise to lawmakers who are in session for six months? 

Look at the law. We found it buried in the state budget. 

It says the commission can tie any pay raise to a budget passed on time and to the lawmakers' job performance. 

"It seems like the train is leaving the pay raise station," said Blair Horner, head of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "They haven't had one in 20 years."

Horner he says the commission can also tie a pay raise to ethics reform. 

Brean: "Like what?"

Blair Horner, NYPIRG: "Well we made a series of recommendations (Wednesday). One was enhance the power of the independently elected state comptroller to oversee government contracts. His power was pulled back just before the scandals hit on the Buffalo billion."

He also wants a cap on outside income.

For example, members of Congress can only make $30,000 a year on top of their government salary.

New York state lawmakers are technically part-time and therefore they can make whatever they want. 

Horner: "Dealing with outside income is a legitimate issue because it's not a theoretical issue. We've seen what happened with the speaker of the Assembly and others who have gotten into trouble because they didn't know who they were here for."

And if you don't think there should be a pay raise because of past corruption, consider this.

A lot of the lawmakers making decisions next year are new. Starting Jan.1, 50 percent of the State Senate will have been there less than five years.

News10NBC asked for the number of new members of the Assembly since 2014. The speaker's office did not respond to our question. 

What could the raise be? 

If the commission decides to give a raise to lawmakers based on inflation since 1999, the raise would increase their base pay to approximately $121,000. 

The law says the raise could be spread over the next three years. 

Here's the timeline:

Friday, Nov. 30: Public hearing in New York City

Thursday, Dec. 6: Last pay raise committee meeting.

Monday, Dec.10: Deadline for the committee to issue its decision on pay raises

If you want your voice heard now, click here to submit an email directly to the committee through its website. 

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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