With Nassau County’s finances in a shambles, its debt more than $3.5 billion, its recurring revenue far outstripped by its expenses, and much of its fiscal management in the hands of an unelected state oversight board, legislators finally took a stand Monday. They found an idea they could unite behind unanimously, put together a plan, and followed through with competence and focus to complete their main objective.
They gave themselves a 90 percent pay hike to $75,000 per year.
To be fair, it’s not crazy to pay hardworking elected officials a reasonable salary. It can even be argued that doing so attracts better candidates. And there are many ways Nassau legislators could have made moves that justified such an increase. They could have changed the law to ban outside income for themselves, which would have traded more money for legislators for a cleaner governing process for taxpayers. Barring that, they could at least have made their jobs “full time,” as the Suffolk County Legislature does with its nearly $100,000 annual salaries. Nassau’s lawmakers could have added more responsibilities and supported reasonable limits on campaign contributions from county contractors. They could have added public campaign financing to show they’re really committed to cleaning up the cesspool that is Nassau governance.
At the very least, they could have paid for the raises by cutting the $1.3 million in taxpayer money they’ll spend in 2016 on mailers saying how wonderful they are, perhaps the surest waste of money by a government agency ever noted.
They did none of this.
On the bright side, legislators won’t get the raises until 2018, after the 2017 elections. Hopefully, those who favored the raise will be right about one thing. We certainly hope the increase attracts better candidates. About 19 of them, in fact.