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New York lawmakers want to give themselves huge raise

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(The Center Square) – New York lawmakers are preparing to give themselves a holiday present this year, in the form of a 29% raise.

Late Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, filed Senate Bill S9617. If passed, it would boost the annual pay for state Assembly and Senate members from $110,000 to $142,000.

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State capital complex, Albany, New York / Photo by Karen W on Pexels.com

It would also make New York legislators the highest paid in the nation. Currently, they’re second behind California, where elected representatives make $119,702. In addition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, they receive mileage reimbursements of 58.5 cents per mile, and per diems of up to $183 per day to cover travel and meal expenses while working.

Just four years ago, legislators received a $79,500 annual salary.

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The bill would make the new salary rate effective as of Jan. 1, when the new two-year term would begin. Under the New York Constitution, lawmakers cannot bump their pay during the current term. Because of that, a special session will need to take place within the next 11 days to pass the bill.

No date has been set, according to the New York State Senate calendar.

Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul voiced support for the raises.“I believe they deserve a pay raise,” Hochul said, according to Gothamist. “They work extraordinarily hard. It’s a year-round job. I’ve been with them many times in their districts and they work very hard and they deserve it. It is up to them on whether or not they want to come back and make that effective.”

New York lawmakers hold annual sessions from January to June, although special sessions can also occur during the year.

Stewart-Cousins’ bill would also cap outside “earned income” for lawmakers. That cap would be set to the same limit state and local public-sector retirees can make. According to the Empire Center for Public Policy, that’s $35,000 annually.

However, that provision would not take effect until 2025, and lawmakers could still accept military reserve or guard pay, as well as income from copyright royalties and investments.

Last week, five public watchdog groups sent a letter to Hochul calling for any legislative salary increases to include caps on outside income, with their preference being 15% on “certain permissible” sources.

“The (U.S.) Congress limits outside income to nothing more than a small amount and bans income from any entity in which the Congressmember has a ‘fiduciary’ relationship with a client,” wrote leaders from Common Cause/NY, Reinvent Albany, the League of Women Voters for New York State, the New York Public Interest Research Group and Citizens Union. “Being a ‘fiduciary’ means putting the interests of your client ahead of your own. When you’re an elected official whose constituents’ interests are paramount, how do you do that when you have clients? Can lawmakers serve two bosses?”

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