NY Lawmakers Vote to Make Themselves Nation's Highest Paid

They approved $142K salary in special session
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2022 11:00 AM CST
NY Lawmakers Vote to Make Themselves Nation's Highest Paid
Members of the New York Assembly debate legislation to approve a pay raise during a special session Thursday in Albany, NY.   (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

State lawmakers in New York have voted to give themselves a Christmas present: Their second large pay rise in the space of four years. A measure to increase the base pay of state Assembly and Senate members from $110,000 to $142,000 sailed through both Democratic-controlled houses of the legislature with ease despite opposition from Republicans, Politico reports. The 29% raise will make New York legislators the best-paid state lawmakers in the nation, with California in second place at $119,000, per the AP. New York lawmakers' salaries were at $79,500 for 20 years until 2018, when they rose to $110,000 after a recommendation from a state compensation committee.

"It’s supposed to be the season of giving. Instead it’s the season of taking,” Republican state Sen. Sue Serino said during the Thursday debate, per Politico. Democratic leaders including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins defended the move. "It’s a full-time job," she said. "Sooner or later in order to be able to afford to do the job, we have to raise pay." New York's 213 legislators are in session for around 60 days from January to June. For the rest of the year, they deal with issues in their constituencies and occasionally return to Albany for special sessions—including the one in which they granted themselves the raise. The state constitution bars a sitting legislature from raising its own pay, so the raise will take effect on Jan. 1, when the new session begins.

The pay deal limits lawmakers' income from outside sources to no more than $35,000 a year, though the provision won't take effect until 2025. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bill, reports the New York Times. The legislators' staffers, meanwhile, are in the process of unionizing. They say they are often overworked and underpaid, the Albany Times-Union reports. "It's incredibly insulting," says Chris LaBarge, legislative director for Democratic state Sen. Cordell Cleare. "You should be able to do a professional job in the Legislature; you should be able to pay your bills, raise a family, afford a mortgage," he says. "That's what we say about everyone else." (More state legislature stories.)

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