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Panel raises legislative salaries, but puts limits on outside income

The committee also recommended raises for statewide elected officials and top commissioners in the Cuomo administration.

The New York State Capitol in Albany.

The New York State Capitol in Albany. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ALBANY — A special state committee on Thursday decided that state legislators should get phased-in raises that would increase their base salaries to $130,000 by Jan. 1, 2021, but it also put limits on their outside income.

Unless the Legislature objects, which is not expected, the raises for legislators as well as others for statewide elected officials and top commissioners in the Cuomo administration will become law beginning Jan. 1.

The committee created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature decided that the outside income of legislators will be restricted to 15 percent of their new legislative salaries, effective Jan. 1, 2020, in a measure that mirrors rules in Congress. The committee also said leadership stipends that now range from $9,000 to $41,000 and go to most legislators should be restricted to only the top leaders, including the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader.

Thursday's action will move New York up to paying the highest legislative salaries in the nation as well as the highest salary for a governor. But in limiting legislators' outside income, the committee approved an anti-corruption reform that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and good-government groups have sought for years.

The committee decided:

  • Legislators would receive a base pay of $110,000 on Jan. 1; $120,000 on Jan. 1, 2020; and $130,000 on Jan. 1, 2021.
  • The governor’s salary of $179,000 would rise to $200,000 on Jan. 1; $225,000 on Jan. 1, 2020; and $250,000 on Jan. 1, 2021.
  • The salaries for attorney general, comptroller and lieutenant governor of about $155,000 would rise to $190,000 on Jan. 1; $210,000 on Jan. 1, 2020; and $220,000 on Jan. 1, 2021. 
  • Top commissioners paid about $136,000 would see raises to as much as $190,000 on Jan. 1; $210,000 on Jan. 1, 2020; and $220,000 on Jan. 1, 2021. Lower-tiered commissioners would see smaller raises. Those raises are recommendations, to be finalized by Gov. Cuomo.

"After listening to public testimony and analyzing the numbers, we determined that a salary increase is warranted for state agency heads and elected officials, but only with reasonable reforms similar to those adopted by Congress,” said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The committee has said that if legislators’ salaries were raised to account for inflation since 1999, the new base salary would be about $122,000. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) testified in favor of raises and said the total cost of raises to simply match inflation would consume just one-10,000th of 1 percent of state operating funds.  

Right now, 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 committee members are DiNapoli, Carl McCall, who was appointed SUNY chairman by Cuomo and is chairman of the compensation committee, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and former city Comptroller William Thompson. DiNapoli recused himself from discussions and votes related to his raise.

By creating the committee in the state budget adoption process in April, Cuomo and legislators avoided the politically dicey votes that have sunk past pay-raise efforts. Cuomo and the Legislature then gave the committee the power to create law with its decision, a move that several legal experts said may clash with the state constitution.

The committee, however, said Thursday that its lawyers declared the process constitutional.

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