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Albany Dems introduce bill to raise legislative pay before likely special session this week

Albany Democrats introduced legislation late Monday night to raise their own pay by $32,000 per year in a special legislative session expected as soon as Thursday.

While state lawmakers will face a $35,000 per year limit on outside income, those changes will not take effect until 2025 compared to the pay bump from $110,000 to $142,000 per year they would get by January 2023 if the bill passes the state Senate and Assembly by the end of 2022.

Such a salary increase would make New York legislators the highest paid in the nation ahead of second-place California where lawmakers will make a relatively paltry $119,702 this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Republicans have blasted the idea of a special session in recent weeks after months in which Democrats rejected suggestions to return to Albany to change controversial criminal justice reforms amid rising crime amid calls by the GOP and Democrats like New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

State lawmakers typically meet in between January and June each year.

“If I get called back next week for a special legislative session trust I will be voting ”NO” on this proposed self serving pay raise for Albany politicians. The status quo politicians in Albany failed our state with their pro criminal, Big Government, tax and spend policies,” Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R-Putnam) tweeted Sunday ahead of the introduction of the proposed bill language.

Hochul talking at a microphone
Hochul recently said lawmakers ought to limit outside income along with any pay increase.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/S

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have not officially said yet whether a special session of the Legislature will happen before the end of the year.

“I believe that legislators need to be compensated for the hard work that they do. People don’t realize the sacrifice that they make being away from their families,” Heastie told reporters earlier this month.

Bill language states the salary bump will become effective next month if the proposed bill gets passed and signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Heastie recently suggested state legislators deserve a pay raise despite criticism.
James Keivom

The planned raise comes three years ago after a task force empowered by the state Senate and Assembly recommended increasing their pay from $79,500 per year in exchange for limits on moonlighting.

Litigation eventually scuttled those restrictions though the bill introduced Monday night does include limits along with a litany of exceptions.

This includes letting lawmakers serve while receiving raking compensation from the military, National Guard, public and private retirement plans, copyright royalties, and investment income.

Stewart-Cousins has not spoken publicly in recent weeks about raising legislative pay.
James Keivom

The bill language also creates a carve out for money made from “income from a trade or business in which a [legislator or their family holds a controlling interest, where the member’s services are not a material factor in the production of income.”

Any lawmaker who violates the proposed rules, if approved, would be subject to a fine not exceeding $40,000 and the potential forfeiture of income made above proposed limits.

Hochul said last week that state lawmakers ought to approve outside income limits alongside any pay increase.

“That seems to be, if you’re having a pay increase, that that would be something that I would think — in the interest of transparency and accountability — that people would expect,” she told reporters.

But Republicans say voters will make Democrats pay a price for approving a pay hike so soon after an election, especially considering rising crime and ongoing inflation.

“It’s hard to believe a pay raise is going to be well-received by New Yorkers. In an average year it’s a tough sell. But in a year when inflation has been crushing everyone? The optics can’t be ignored,” Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Fulton) recently said.

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