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Judge won't stop pay raises to legislators, officials during lawsuit

ALBANY — State legislators and other top state officials can expect their big pay increases to begin as scheduled after a judge on Friday declined to put the pay boosts on hold pending a lawsuit.

The brief appearance didn’t go to the merits of the lawsuit by the Government Justice Center, a watchdog group, said Cameron J. Macdonald, the attorney for the group. The effort to suspend the raises while the lawsuit continues will be argued Jan. 11 in state Supreme Court in Albany, Macdonald said in an interview.

On Dec. 14, the group filed legal action to stop the planned pay raises of as much as 60 percent over three years for state legislators and other top state officials. The raises are scheduled to begin in early January.

The lawsuit argues that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators violated the constitution when they created a committee to recommend pay raises with the “force of law,” to avoid casting politically difficult votes.

Cuomo, legislative leaders and the Legislative and Executive Compensation Committee they created said they had evaluated that concern and found no constitutional conflicts.

The committee’s attorney declined to comment Friday.

On Dec. 10, the committee reported that legislative salaries should rise to $130,000 by Jan. 1, 2021, in phases, and that the governor’s salary should rise from $179,000 to $250,000 over the same period. The committee also set raises from other statewide officials and top Cuomo administration staff. The committee required the legislature to accept limits on members' outside income and a sharp reduction in the number of leadership stipends.

The Government Justice Center describes itself as a nonpartisan legal center that supports New Yorkers’ rights in the face of government action. Its board includes members from the conservative Manhattan Institute and Reclaim New York, a group associated with Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, who has funded conservative causes.

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