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Another Suffolk lawmaker returns cost-of-living raise

Suffolk County Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) on Thursday became the second lawmaker to announce that he’s returning the pay raise he accepted despite supporting a wage freeze for elected officials.

Spencer joins Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) in taking the action, which comes after Newsday recently reported that seven legislators voted last year to create a voluntary wage freeze program but took their raises anyway.

Anker and Spencer have arranged to return to the comptroller’s office the difference between their 2012 and 2013 salaries that they’ve already received. For the rest of this year, they will now be paid at the 2012 rate for legislators, which comes to $93,958 over the full year.

Both had been receiving pay that would have totaled $96,570 by year’s end.

Newsday’s story reported that twelve lawmakers had voted in June 2012 to allow county elected officials to decline their annual cost-of-living raises this year — a largely symbolic measure because they already had that power. The vote came as Suffolk faced a projected $530 million deficit and layoffs of 300 rank-and-file workers.

But of the 12, only five turned down the automatic 2.8 percent increase due them in January, according to the comptroller's and legislative clerk's offices.

Some of the seven lawmakers who supported creating the voluntary program, but still accepted raises, defended their actions by saying that they’d already deferred pay as part of another program — and that their vote was mostly meant to spur unionized county workers to accept a wage freeze. When the workers did not follow suit, some of the lawmakers said they thought it was appropriate to collect the automatic cost-of-living increases, as many other county officials did.

Anker and Spencer, however said in the original story that they had always intended to participate in the wage freeze program, but didn’t do so only as an oversight.

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