Pay raise for law­mak­ers be­comes cam­paign is­sue

Nic­coli, Ame­dore say they op­pose hike

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - STATE NEWS - By David Klep­per

AL­BANY >> A pro­posal to raise the pay of New York state law­mak­ers has be­come an is­sue in the fall elec­tions, with many chal­lengers say­ing leg­is­la­tors don’t de­serve more money fol­low­ing a wave of cor­rup­tion ar­rests.

A state com­mis­sion is now con­sid­er­ing whether to rec­om­mend in­creas­ing the leg­isla­tive salary from $79,500 per year, a fig­ure that hasn’t changed in nearly two decades. The com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion is ex­pected shortly af­ter next month’s elec­tion, and will take ef­fect au­to­mat­i­cally un­less law­mak­ers vote to block it.

Sev­eral can­di­dates for the Assem­bly and Se­nate have de­nounced the po­ten­tial in­crease — as well as the sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent process be­hind it — in light of the Leg­is­la­ture’s in­abil­ity to ad­dress in any mean­ing­ful way the rash of cor­rup­tion that has plagued Al­bany in re­cent years. More than 30 law­mak­ers have left of­fice fac­ing al­le­ga­tions of crim­i­nal or eth­i­cal mis­con­duct since 2000.

“Peo­ple are re­ally strug­gling and the idea of a very sig­nif­i­cant raise for law­mak­ers ... it’s another ex­am­ple of Al­bany’s le­gal cor­rup­tion,” said Sara Nic­coli, a Demo­cratic state Se­nate can­di­date in a Hudson Val­ley dis­trict. Nic­coli wrote to the com­mis­sion this sum­mer urg­ing it to re­ject an in­crease. “Law­mak­ers cre­ated this process (the com­mis­sion) to give them­selves a raise while still be­ing able to deny that they want a raise.”

“Are we as a peo­ple this gullible?” said Repub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Christopher Davis, who is run­ning for an Al­bany-area seat. “Cor­rup­tion case af­ter cor­rup­tion case ... This is ridicu­lous.”

Some in­cum­bent law­mak­ers — par­tic­u­larly Assem­bly mem­bers from New York City — have pushed for the in­crease as a nec­es­sary re­sponse to the ris­ing cost of liv­ing. And while be­ing a law­maker is tech­ni­cally a part-time job, mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture say the many obli­ga­tions out­side of the six­month ses­sion make it more like full-time em­ploy­ment.

“I have long stated that a pay in­crease is war­ranted con­sid­er­ing that the vast ma­jor­ity of pub­lic ser­vants are hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated, and a pay in­crease will help us to at­tract and re­tain qual­ity in­di­vid­u­als,” Demo­cratic Assem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx said last month in a state­ment voic­ing his sup­port for a pay hike.

But with the elec­tion a month away few in­cum­bents are talk­ing much about their de­sired raise on the cam­paign trail. And many are say­ing they think a pay raise is a bad idea. Nic­coli’s op­po­nent, Repub­li­can Sen. Ge­orge Ame­dore of Rot­ter­dam, said the Leg­is­la­ture was never meant to be a full-time job.

“Let them eval­u­ate it,” he said of the pay raise com­mis­sion. “I just hope they de­ter­mine there shouldn’t be a pay in­crease.”

Nic­coli

Ame­dore

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