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Hearings begin on possible pay hike for state legislators, top officials

ALBANY — New Yorkers will get two chances beginning Wednesday to weigh in on whether state legislators and other top officials should get pay raises.

Advocates for the State Legislature, statewide elected officials and some top commissioners are pressing to get their first pay raises since 1999.

But some good-government advocates say any raises should be tied to ethics reforms. 

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is scheduled to speak at Friday's hearing in Manhattan. He will focus on the merits of a pay raise, citing workload and the need for compensation that will attract top talent, spokesman Michael Whyland said Tuesday.

Alex Camarda, senior policy adviser for Reinvent Albany, said the nonprofit advocacy group “believes our state elected officials and agency heads deserve a substantial raise. . . . However, Albany has also been plagued by too many instances of corruption related to outside income.”

The group is urging the New York State Compensation Committee “to provide a significant pay raise while also restricting outside income,” according to prepared remarks Camarda plans to deliver at Friday's hearing.

Members of the state Senate and Assembly make base pay of $79,500 for what, under law, are part-time jobs.

Lawmakers in most cases also get $174 per day for lodging and meals while working in Albany or outside their district. Most also receive stipends ranging from $9,000 to $41,000 a year for holding leadership posts.

The result is most legislators make over $100,000 a year.

Among top officials in the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who could get raises are six commissioners who make the national average of $136,000, according to compensation commission. Three others make $127,000.

The first hearing takes place Wednesday in Albany at 11 a.m. at SUNY’s Center Tower Boardroom at 353 Broadway. Friday’s hearing in Manhattan begins at noon in the SUNY Global Center’s Global Classroom at 116 E. 55th St.

Speakers who preregister each will get five minutes, while those who sign up the day of the hearings will get three minutes to comment. Former New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. will act as moderator.

Under an agreement in the state budget in April between Cuomo and legislative leaders, the pay commission is empowered to create law by setting new compensation levels by Dec. 10.

New York lawmakers’ base pay is the third-highest in the nation, behind California’s $107,241, with a $192 per diem, and Pennsylvania’s $87,180 base pay with a $183 per diem, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The state's median household income was $62,909 in 2016, according to the U.S. Census.

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