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Bill to stop automatic pay hikes fails in Suffolk

Suffolk Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) is seen

Suffolk Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) is seen on May 20, 2015. Photo Credit: James Escher

A Suffolk legislative committee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have suspended automatic pay increases for county elected officials over the next five years.

Sponsor William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) said the bill would have signaled that elected officials were participating in cuts at a time the county faces multimillion dollar deficits.

“It sets the tone and sends a message that we realize we have a serious financial situation right now,” he said.

But his motion at the government operations committee died for lack of a second.

Although there was no discussion of the measure at the meeting, opponents defended automatic raises as a way to take politics out of the salary issue.

“If you want to have quality legislators, quality elected officials, you can’t have it where we’re politicizing what we’re paid,” said committee chairman Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).

Suffolk County legislators will make $100,854 in 2017, a .58 percent increase, under a 1999 county law that set pay rates and guaranteed automatic raises for elected officials of 4 percent or the regional Consumer Price Index increase, whichever is less.

In 2000, base pay for legislators was $67,500.

Base pay next year will go up by the same amount for the county comptroller, clerk, sheriff and district attorney to $194,243 — up from $130,000 in 2000.

The County executive’s pay is $224,125. County Executive Steve Bellone has taken a $187,000 salary since taking office in 2012 in a nod to difficult fiscal times.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the legislature’s minority leader, said he has donated his pay raises to charities.

Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) called the amount of the automatic pay raise small compared with the size of the fiscal problem the county faces. But she said she might consider the proposal again in the future.

Lindsay said he plans to reintroduce the pay freeze next year. He introduced a similar bill in 2014 which would have permanently eliminated the automatic pay increase.

He also has introduced legislation to ask voters whether to reduce the number of county legislators from 18 to 13 after the 2020 U.S. Census.

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