Nassau legislators Monday are expected to consider a plan pushed by Legis. Fran Becker (R-Lynbrook) to raise county lawmakers' salaries, which have been held at $39,500 for more than 20 years.
Legislation sponsored by all 19 county lawmakers was filed late Friday that would boost their pay to $75,000, effective Jan. 1, 2018, followed by annual automatic raises increases based on the New York metropolitan consumer price index.
Becker, who is retiring at the end of this month, had urged lawmakers repeatedly to raise their own salaries. “Even though I may not benefit from it, I believe in the position. Legislators work hard. Their responsiblity is enormous,” said Becker, who has served since 1996, when the legislature was created to replace the now defunct Nassau Board of Supervisors.
At that time, salaries were set at $39,500 — the same amount paid to each supervisor — to address public concern that costs would skyrocket when Nassau changed from the six-member board to a 19-member legislature. However, each supervisor also received a salary from their respective town or city.
A blue-ribbon panel in 2007 recommended that legislative salaries be hiked to $70,000. But legislative leaders refused to bring the issue to a vote without unanimous support. In the past, former Democratic legislators David Denenberg of Merrick and David Mejias of Farmingdale, both lawyers, opposed pay increases. Neither now serve on the legislature.
Insiders predict unanimous support for the current pay raise plan. “If it’s not unanimous, it’s not happening,” said one legislative aide.
Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who appointed the bipartisan panel when she was presiding officer, said Friday, “I think its about time,” noting that all elected county officials’ salaries had been hiked in accord with the panel recommendations except legislators.
“The salary of $39,500 has remained literally stagnant. It doesn’t make sense,” Jacobs said. “Your ability to attract people who have the experience or desire to be a legislator are turned off by this. People cannot survive on it.”
Suffolk legislators’ pay this year is $99,783 and is scheduled through an automatic CPI increase to rise to $100,272 next year. Several Suffolk legislators do not take the full salary.
Nassau’s initial $39,500 salary is equivalent in today’s dollars to about $60,000 annually, according to the USInflationCalculator.com.
Part-time councilmembers in Nassau’s towns currently earn more than county legislators: Council salaries in Hempstead are $71,000; in Oyster Bay council members earn $57,500 and North Hempstead town board members are paid $49,000. Incoming Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino said council members will not get a pay hike this year while officials for the other two towns say no raises are planned.