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45° Good Morning

Forget the pay raise. State lawmakers should hang it up for 2016

Over the past decade, nearly three dozen elected

Over the past decade, nearly three dozen elected officials have been forced from their offices due to corruption accusations or convictions. Credit: AP

New York’s lawmakers might return to Albany early next week for a special session, induced by the governor’s promise of a pay raise in return for finishing up work they should have done earlier in the year.

In handing out his economic development grants last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told a long anecdote about the torturous route to making policy in this state. “It’s a little frightening,” he said, “but however it gets there, it gets there.”

Let’s not go there. Stop the horror show before feckless legislators accept nothing short of a bribe to do their day job and ignore any of the meaningful ethics reforms New Yorkers want.

Cuomo correctly blew up a stinky deal lawmakers made to give themselves a huge pay hike without actually having to vote for it. And, he figured the lawmakers wanted the raise so bad, he could get them to pass reforms that might lead to a more honest government.

We supported the proposal to raise the base pay for state legislators to $116,000 — up from $79,500 — as long as it came with term limits, bans on outside income and a full-time schedule. But the lawmakers balked.

Now, Cuomo is dangling a raise to about $99,500 — does Albany think the public will be more forgiving if it comes in at less than six figures? — in return for laws that can be voted on in any regular session. However, to get a pay raise in 2017, the first in two decades, the legislature would have to vote by the end of the month.

And what would the public get in return? Who knows?

“It’s absurd that the people of NY, or even most legislators, don’t know what kind of deal is being struck behind closed doors in Albany,” Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, tweeted yesterday.

It’s a bipartisan hairball that is getting spit up.

Sen. John DeFrancisco, an upstate Republican who is deputy majority leader, noted on Tuesday that the legislature returns to start a new session in three weeks, and all the matters under discussion could be addressed then. Calling out the farce, he said, “The only one that has to be done, if it’s going to be done, is the pay raise.” DeFrancisco wants an up-or-down vote on the record. But he’s also one of the Senate’s highest earners of outside income because of his law practice, and he adamantly opposes any limits on it.

One of the items being discussed is a fig leaf of ethics reform in the state procurement process. A few years ago, Cuomo took some oversight of executive branch contracts away from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Now after several federal indictments alleging abuses by key figures in the awarding of contracts, DiNapoli has proposed a stronger set of laws to prevent corruption. DiNapoli says a thorough public debate is needed, not cosmetic changes approved in the dead of night. He’s right.

Also back on the table is statewide approval of ride-sharing services such as Uber, legislation that was blocked in June by the taxicab lobby. State regulation would eliminate the need for Uber, Lyft and others to get approval from local governments. However, one proposal would exclude Nassau and Suffolk counties from the law. That is the kind of unacceptable nonsense that happens in the horse-trading behind closed doors with the clock ticking.

And for this they want more money.— The editorial board