New York lawmakers are in line to earn the top state legislative salary in the country after a state compensation panel voted to raise their pay for the first time in 20 years.
The 63 percent increase will be phased in over three years. Lawmakers currently make a base salary of $79,500, and can also earn stipends and per diems for traveling to Albany.
Legislators working in higher cost-of-living areas like New York City have long maintained their salaries are outpaced by inflation. Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, a Democrat, represents the Albany area's 109th district. "I was elected six years ago. I knew the pay, I was fine with the pay and never sought the increase, but I recognize that there are members that have gone 20 years, that there are serious needs, cost of living needs when you live in New York City and especially when you have a family. Most members do not treat this as a part-time job. Most of us work full-time year-round and quite regularly."
Republican state Senator George Amedore represents the 46th district. "While many New Yorkers are struggling to afford New York and the high cost of living here, to give lawmakers a raise that would make them the highest paid lawmakers in the nation is just out of touch. That's why I voted against the creation of the pay commission to begin with and the legislature has the ability and the authority to reject this commission's recommendations, and that's what we should be doing."
Members of the pay committee also voted to limit how much money lawmakers can earn from outside jobs, which directly impacts Amedore, who took home more from his construction business in 2017 than the proposed cap would allow.
Amedore says limiting outside income is the wrong idea. "...and will do nothing to bring ethics reform to the legislature and to state government. The only that it will eliminate is the ability to attract well-experienced business-minded individuals who have a desire to serve in state government to help with reforming and put good public policy initiatives into place. This will just create career politicians. And it's very unfortunate that career politicians are making these recommendations and other lawmakers are accepting this."
Officials say about a third of lawmakers earn significant amounts of money from outside work. The proposed cap would limit that to no more than 15 percent of total salary, beginning in 2020.
Similar proposals have been blocked in the Senate in the past, but that chamber’s incoming leader, Democratic Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, says she believes her colleagues will support a cap on outside pay, something Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed support for on WAMC. "They deserve a pay raise. There should be a ban on outside income. Ban limit, congressional limit. That has been my position for years, it remains my position."
Legislative pay jumps to $110,000 on New Year’s Day. Additional increases in 2020 and 2021 will eventually bring the total annual salary to $130,000.