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Flanagan: Talks for pay raise, special session break off

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, (R-Smithtown) speaks to

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, (R-Smithtown) speaks to members of the New York State Senate on Jan. 6, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. Credit: Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Closed-door talks to hold a special session to approve a pay raise for legislators and expand ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to Long Island and upstate ended Friday night, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

“There just isn’t enough in this package to justify convening a special session and bringing 213 legislators back to Albany before the end of the year,” Flanagan said. “While I believe many of the issues we have discussed have merit, some of the specific provisions have raised concerns that warrant further deliberation.”

Two sources said that after negotiations since late November the Senate’s Republican majority couldn’t muster the votes needed to approve the policy objectives that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made as a condition for holding the special session and adopting the pay raise.

The State Legislature faced a Dec. 31 deadline to act if they wanted to start collecting roughly 25 percent pay raises on Jan. 1. Missing the deadline means the legislature will have to wait another two years, until the beginning of another two-year term, to enact a raise.

Talks were considering a base pay for legislators of about $99,500 for the part-time job. The current base pay is $79,500 and hasn’t changed since 1999. But leadership stipends and per-diem expense checks means most legislators make about $100,000 a year and are allowed to have outside jobs, including at law firms.

Without a special session, Cuomo won’t achieve his goals of creating an inspector general answerable only to him to investigate the awarding of major state contracts by his administration. Several other measures also were tied up in talks, but they all hinged on the pay raise.

Those issues, however, are expected to be revived in the session beginning Jan. 1.

Hard feelings dominated the private talks, according to sources from all sides.

Cuomo had used the extraordinary leverage of pay raise to try to exact his policy objectives, which at one time included term limits and restrictions on outside income for legislators.

Senators and Assembly members were furious with Cuomo during the talks.

A year ago, the governor and legislature created a commission to recommend a pay raise that would avoid a politically dicey vote by legislators on raising salaries.

The commission was to make a recommendation that could become law without any action by the legislature. But on Nov. 15 Cuomo’s appointees and Cuomo said any significant pay raise would have to be accompanied by ethics reforms and other measures of Cuomo’s choosing.

That effectively stopped the pay raise and put it into tense negotiations in Albany.

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