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ALBANY — A “significant” pay raise for legislators to $116,000 or more has been taken off the table as the Senate’s Republican majority continues to oppose limits on outside income and the Assembly’s Democratic majority continues to oppose term limits, according to two sources familiar with the private negotiations for a special session of the Legislature.
One of the sources said negotiations have included a proposal that could raise the base pay of legislators to $99,000 a year, up from the current $79,500 base salary. The other source said a “much more modest” raise other than ones in the range of $116,000 to $140,000 that have been proposed are being considered now, but didn’t want to specify a specific salary as talks continue.
Both sources said talks also continue for a special session of the Legislature as early as this week.
Those more modest proposals wouldn’t limit the ability of legislators to work in law firms and other jobs because the legislative job would remain part-time. Cuomo had sought to make the legislative jobs full time to reduce potential conflicts of interest that have been at the center of many of Albany’s corruption scandals.
A commission appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders had considered recommending a 47-percent raise to $116,000, but Cuomo said any significant raise should be accompanied by ethics measures such as limiting outside income and establishing term limits. Cuomo’s appointees to the pay commission left open the option of a more modest pay increase without limiting outside income.
The timing is important because under law a sitting Legislature can’t raise its own pay. Instead, a sitting Legislature can raise the salary of the next body of legislators who will take their seats in the next session. In this case, the current Legislature can increase the pay of the legislators in the 2017 regular session beginning Jan. 1.
Cuomo also wants to use a special session to allocate homeless aid before winter hits hardest and to fund a State Police task force to investigate a spike in hate crimes since the presidential election. In addition, he supports legislation that would open upstate to ride-sharing services such as Uber.
The last pay raise was in 1999 when then-Gov. George Pataki extracted a big piece of his legacy — creating charter schools — in exchange for a raise of 38 percent for lawmakers.
That raise brought legislators’ base pay to $79,500 for the part-time job. Leadership stipends and expense checks of $172 daily for work in Albany and away from home bring most legislators’ compensation to about $100,000, with the top leaders of the Assembly and Senate receiving $41,500 stipends on top of their base pay.
Good-government groups have urged Cuomo and the Legislature to delay action on his landmark proposals such as term limits for legislators until public hearings and debate can be held.