State lawmakers have formally introduced a bill to increase their taxpayer-funded pay from $110,000 to $142,000, which could trigger a special session that is expected to happen as early as Thursday, two people with knowledge of the scheduling told Gothamist. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the plans. A formal announcement of the special session is expected as early as today.
Should lawmakers get the pay increase, it would make them the highest paid state legislators in the U.S. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has argued the increase is justified since lawmakers have sacrificed time with their families to carry out public service work. Gov. Kathy Hochul also backed lawmakers, saying last week that they deserve it.
The bill to increase pay by nearly 30% was introduced on Monday by state Senate and Assembly lawmakers who added several caveats, namely that outside income be limited to $35,000 by 2025. If approved, the pay raise would take effect next month and mark the first time in three years lawmakers have received an increase. While committee chairs receive a stipend for their work, lawmakers also receive a daily $183 travel allowance.
While lawmakers have defended their pursuit of a pay increase, advocacy and think tank groups balked at the timing of such a move.
Upstate United, an advocacy group promoting business interests in northern New York state, said in a statement that the state’s fragile economy should not warrant an increase.
“More than 300,000 people and 261,000 jobs have yet to return to New York since the start of the pandemic,” said Justin Wilcox, the group’s executive director. “We strongly encourage members of the Senate and Assembly to tackle these problems before they boost their paychecks.”
Ken Girardin, a fellow at think tank the Empire Center for Public Policy, suggested that a pay raise might not be justified given how little lawmakers have done to hold an adequate number of oversight hearings.
“Much of the ‘job’ presently described by senators and assemblymembers involves constituent services and public appearances that are connected more to lawmakers’ desire to get re-elected than any statutory or constitutional duty,” Girardin said.
Good government groups were more amenable to seeing lawmakers give themselves a raise. In a joint letter sent to Hochul last week, the groups — including Reinvent Albany, Common Cause New York, League of Women Voters of New York State, NY Public Interest Group, and Citizens Union — said any consideration for a pay increase for lawmakers should include “significant controls on outside income.”
Legislative bills require three days to be “aged” before they are put before the floor of a legislative chamber for a vote, pushing the pay bump bill to Thursday. Lawmakers last met in June to discuss Hochul’s gun legislation and the equality amendment that codified Roe v. Wade.