Commission Denies Pay Raises For Legislators

ALBANY — New York State legislators haven’t received a pay increase in close to 20 years, and they’ll be waiting a while longer yet.

A commission formulated by state officials rejected a pay raise for legislators during its final meeting of the year Tuesday. State legislators could reconvene for a special session before the end of the year, however, to amend the law and accept a salary increase of a proposed 47 percent. If legislators don’t gather, they’ll have to wait another four years until their salaries are examined again.

The state Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation was enacted by the legislature last year to evaluate and recommend compensation increases for judges, members of the state Legislature and other state officials. According to news sources, two members supported an increase while Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointees and a judicial branch representative abstained from a vote.

At the moment, legislators’ salaries will stay at $79,500 for six months of work in Albany. A proposed increase being examined by the commission would have put their salaries over $100,000 a year.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s appointee Roman Hedges supported a raise and explained legislators’ salaries should come in line with the cost-of-living.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell not only voted against the commission last year, but he also said legislators should be setting the law per the New York constitution. Goodell, R-Jamestown, said following Tuesday’s decision that a hand-picked commission doesn’t have the authority to make law.

“The legislature if it wants a raise can do it the old-fashioned way in compliance with the constitution, and that’s to call the legislature into session before the end of the year and vote on it. That’s how it’s constitutionally set up so that legislators would be responsible for their own vote,” he said.

Fran Reiter, a Cuomo appointee, said ethics reforms including eradicating outside income are needed to confront corruption in Albany before a raise occurs. Goodell said the law already restricts any transactions that might pose a conflict of interest with a legislator’s duties.

“Of all individuals who have been arrested based on ethics issues, not one of them involved outside income,” he said.

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, told The Post-Journal on Tuesday that she previously was against the pay raise and “that still holds.”

Last year, the commission granted Supreme Court judges a pay increase. That raise took effect April 1 as judges’ salaries went up from $174,000 to $193,000 a year.