It looks like New York politicians will get a substantial pay raise next month.
Since 1999, New York lawmakers have received a base salary of $79,500, with committee chairs and legislative leaders receiving additional stipends. According to the Gotham Gazette, “[s]tatewide elected officials, legislators and agency heads are slated to get pay raises next year following recommendations issued [on December 6 by the New York State Compensation Committee], a four-member panel that was created in this year’s state budget.” The Gazette reported that “salaries for legislators will be raised to $130,000 by 2021, with lawmakers set to receive $110,000 in 2019 and $120,000 in 2020.” The Gazette added that the proposed increases would give the State of New York the highest-paid governor and legislators in the entire country by 2021. The Committee also recommended that most stipends be eliminated, and that legislators be barred from receiving outside income in excess of 15 percent of their respective salaries. Unless the Legislature meets and rejects them (an extraordinarily unlikely scenario), the Committee’s recommendations with respect to legislative pay will begin to go into effect on January 1, 2019.
Bill Lipton, State Director of the Working Families Party, has supported a legislative pay increase on the grounds that state legislators work hard, “have full time jobs,” and “need to be paid fairly.” The problem is this: Membership in the State Legislature isn’t supposed to be a full-time job. Rather than paying legislators more, the State of New York should decrease their responsibilities and make it possible for them to retain outside full-time employment. State legislators spend entirely too much time in Albany. Instead of extending from January until June, the legislative session should come to a close at the end of March once the budget is passed. Furthermore, the Legislature should move to a biennial budgeting cycle, and should only meet every other year. We should encourage and incentivize short terms of service for legislators, not the perpetuation of a long-term, professional, political class. The system rewards incumbents and encourages lengthy stays. It’s upside down.