Does Your State Lawmaker Deserve a Pay Increase?
As a New York State sanctioned commission considers a 46 percent pay raise for state senators and assemblypersons, lawmakers in the Lower Hudson Valley had mixed feelings about the potential bump in their own salary.
The Commission on Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Compensation, a seven-person panel, is determining whether lawmakers deserve more than the $79,500 base pay they get each year. Legislators can also make thousands more, between $9,000 and $41,500 depending on leadership positions they assume.
The possible 46 percent increase would result in lawmakers earning $116,900 per year.
Final recommendations from the commission are due by Nov. 15. Any salary changes would go into effect by the start of 2017. Unless the state Legislature convenes and specifically votes against any pay raise put forward by the commission, it would go into effect, according to Politico.
State Senator Terrence Murphy, a Republican, called the proposed pay raise “horrific” and if it went through it would send a bad message to the public and encourage career politicians to stay longer. Murphy, a proponent of term limits, stressed Albany should focus on reform.
“With families facing harsh taxes, stagnant incomes and depleted retirement funds, we need to set a better example and find a solution that will help the economy, rather than exacerbate the problem,” Murphy stated. “The public has seen more corruption in Albany in the past few years than it has seen in a decade, and now legislators are being recommended for a pay raise.”
State Senator Sue Serino, a Republican, called the prospect of a pay raise “appalling,” considering how many families are struggling to make ends meet and the public’s confidence in government dwindling. She called the commission’s proposal “a slap in the face to hardworking men and women of New York who are painstakingly trying to get ahead.”
“Public service is not about the payday,” Serino stated. “Until New York is thriving, until people across the state are reaping the rewards of a growing economy and until they have a renewed faith in their government, let the record show that I absolutely do not support a pay increase for state legislators.”
State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Democrat, said at some point, she thinks there should be a pay raise for elected officials, though she was noncommittal whether that salary bump should be as soon as next year. Galef, who has been in office since 1993, noted there hasn’t been a raise since 1998.
“There are people that have lost jobs, that I understand and there are people maybe haven’t had an increase, but majority of people probably had one, two percent increase at least,” Galef said.
Galef said she wanted to wait until the commission came out with their recommendations to see if she were supportive of them. The commission could suggest a pay raise, but also want legislators to be full-time without any outside income, Galef said, and there is also a review for other state government employees’ salaries underway.
“We want to encourage good people to get into government,” Galef, a full- time lawmaker said. “You have to have a certain amount of pay for people to leave home and go up to Albany, nobody has to do it though.”
Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Republican, who is leaving office after 2016, has been a staunch advocate to actually cut legislators’ pay and have lawmakers at the capitol only a couple months each year.
“This is a scandal to have us up there for six months of the year, unless you want to just openly say we’re here for the economy of Albany, we’re not here to make laws,” Katz said back in May 2014. “It’s an embarrassment the things we vote on each day.”