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In quiet talks: Raise for NY legislators

ALBANY -- A quiet campaign in Albany has moved the notion of New York legislators getting a pay raise from "Are you kidding?" to "Why not?"

Not that any of them is publicly calling for a raise to their $79,500-a-year base pay, which has long been a third rail in Albany and especially during election years like this.

"There have been no discussions about a pay raise," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

Late on the last night of the regular session on June 21, perhaps the discipline loosened a bit.

"I'll be back in December to vote on your pay raise!" Assemb. Daniel Burling said in his farewell address, to wild applause.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders have tried to ignore reporters' questions for months on whether a raise is planned for the expected special session in late November or December, after the elections in which all 212 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs.

That's how raises have been approved before. Under law, a sitting legislature can't raise its own salary, but it can do so as late as Dec. 31 and have it take effect for what will technically be the next legislature when it opens the 2013 session in January.

And it usually comes with a political deal. Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, approved the last pay raise, but required the Legislature to approve the creation of charter schools, which remains one of his biggest legacies.

Cuomo has several issues he's been unable to get through the Legislature, including the public financing of campaigns. Silver, a fellow Democrat, hasn't been able to raise the minimum wage and Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos hasn't been able to get tax breaks for employers into law.

State & Region