Bill To Make State Pay DA Increase Passes NY Senate

Complaints resonated among counties last year over what they called an unfunded mandate.

At the time, the salaries of state Supreme Court judges rose following a commission’s recommendation in 2015 and approval among legislators in the 2016-17 budget.

With increases for judges came a bump in the salaries for local district attorneys, as per a state law that correlates pay for both positions.

Counties were left paying the district attorneys’ salary increases after their budgets were set without any state assistance. While a bill by state Sen. Cathy Young to fix the issue didn’t get to the governor’s desk last year, legislation is back again for consideration with only a few weeks of session remaining.

On Monday, the bill sponsored by Young, R-Olean, cleared the Senate with unanimous support. The Assembly has until the end of session in June to act on the proposal. If approved, legislation would go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature.

While the state’s judicial system sets its own budget, which incorporated the judges’ pay increase, Young said funding for district attorney salary increases were not included in the governor’s original budget proposal nor the final enacted budget.

“County governments do not have discretion over district attorneys’ pay and their salary increase came as an unexpected budget cost,” Young said. “Providing this relief will ease the load for hardworking property taxpayers and county governments, saving money for residents and businesses.”

The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s salary went up $30,499 to $183,000 last year. In 2018, the district attorney’s salary will rise to $193,000. Young’s legislation, if passed, would only give counties aid for the increases, not the full salary.

When incorporated into the total state budget, Young said the cost represents a very small portion of this year’s enacted budget. Young’s legislation would appropriate $1.6 million to cover the expense.

Along with passing legislation, Young said she would support a chapter amendment to the budget that would make the counties whole.

In 2015, New York state covered around 50 percent of local district attorneys’ salaries with the respective county’s budget covering the remaining cost. However, by not providing for additional aid in the executive budget proposal or the final budget for the second straight year, counties are absorbing a 15 percent increase.

Another bill sponsored by Young passed through the Senate that would permit the practice of split shifts for election inspectors. Legislation, which already passed the Assembly, also amends Election Law to permit local boards to adjust pay to compensate all inspectors based on their corresponding hours.

Young said finding people to work as election inspectors can be difficult as the job is infrequent and comes with long hours.

“State law requires that polling places be supervised by at least one inspector from each of the two major political parties throughout the entire time they are open,” she said. “Allowing boards of elections the option of dividing shifts will help attract new volunteers. The change will better ensure someone is always available to assist with voters’ questions.”