Capitol Watch: Pay raises center stage

New post for Cuomo

December 09, 2018 - 7:53 am
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(WBEN/AP)  In New York state government news, good-government groups are cheering new restrictions on how much money lawmakers can make from outside jobs.

Meanwhile, the Assembly returns to Albany to get ready for the 2019 session and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a new role in the National Governors' Association that's sure to raise his national profile.

Here's a look at stories making news:

MORE FOR THE MONEY? The plan to raise legislative salaries for the first time in 20 years comes with new restrictions on the income lawmakers can generate from side work.

Outside jobs have long been identified as a potential conduit for bribes and a way for groups with business before the state to curry favor with lawmakers. Defenders say outside jobs give lawmakers greater perspective.

"The public needs to know that the people representing them are there to serve them only, and no one else," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause-New York, which applauded the new restrictions.

Under the new rules, approved Thursday by a state compensation committee, outside income will be limited to 15 percent of their total salary, similar to restrictions already in place for members of Congress.

The group Reinvent Albany said the restrictions are "long-needed reforms" but said more changes are needed to restore public confidence in Albany, such as tighter campaign finance rules, voting reforms and stronger ethics rules.

Under the increase, legislative pay will go from the current $79,500 a year to $110,000 as of January 1. Additional increases in 2020 and 2021 will bump up the total to $130,000. The restrictions on outside income won't take effect until 2020 to give lawmakers time to wrap up any prohibited work.

Though there are questions about the committee's authority to make the changes, specifically dictating outside income, they will take effect automatically unless lawmakers decide otherwise.

New York now trails only California and Pennsylvania when it comes to how much it pays its legislators. By comparison, members of Congress make a base salary of $174,000, while members of the New York City Council make $148,000.

Many lawmakers — especially those from high-cost areas in and around New York City — have long argued that their pay hasn't kept up with inflation and doesn't reflect work they do outside of the six-month legislative session.

Not everyone is convinced, however, that the restrictions are a fair trade off for the big pay increase.

"Most New Yorkers wished they received a 5 percent raise, let alone a 63 percent raise over three years," said the group Reclaim New York.

CUOMO SNAGS POST: Cuomo's colleagues in the Democratic Governors Association have tapped him to serve as the vice chairman of the National Governors Association.

Cuomo, who won a third term last month, will begin his new duties for the NGA in July.

The NGA serves as the voice of the chief executives of all 50 states in Washington. The two parties rotate which one controls the chair, with the Republican and Democratic governors associations each getting a role in the process.

"I congratulate Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his election to the National Governors Association as its vice chair," said DGA Chair Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island.

ASSEMBLY TO RETURN: Members of the New York state Assembly will be back in Albany this week for meetings to help them prepare for the 2019 session, which gets underway next month. The meetings will give lawmakers a chance to meet newly elected colleagues and plot strategy for the coming year. The full Legislature will be back to kick off the six-month session Jan. 9

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