It's been an open secret in Albany for some time that state lawmakers are considering boosting their pay. It would be the first increase since 1999, but according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, this state ranks third in the nation for how much we pay our state lawmakers.
The Assembly and Senate are in recess until January, but many are saying they will reconvene after Election Day to raise the 212 lawmakers' pay.
Legislative salaries are $79,500 annually. The legislators also receive an allowance for daily expenses of $171 per day or $61 per half-day.
It didn't surprise us last week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said lawmakers would need to pass two of his top initiatives - raising the minimum wage and lessening a marijuana-possession charge from a misdemeanor to a violation - before he would agree to a raise for legislators. We regret wheeling and dealing is part of the political process, but we'd like to appeal to our lawmakers on the proposed raise.
Many people in the private sector, and even some in public jobs, have gone the last few years without raises.
In Fulton County, the median household income from 2006 to 2010 was $43,240, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, while 17 percent of the people lived below the poverty line. In Montgomery County, the median household income for those same years was $42,603, while nearly 15 percent lived below the poverty level. In Hamilton County, the median household income was $49,557, and nearly 10 percent of the population lived below the poverty level.
If our elected officials have our best interests at heart (and that's what they're getting paid for, right?), then they would do more to earn a raise.
For instance, as our municipalities struggle to keep local tax increases below tax-levy caps, perhaps legislators could pass significant mandate relief or come up with a way to stop the economic decline in upstate communities.
The bottom line is taxpayers can't afford to give lawmakers a raise as municipalities struggle to pay for basic services.
We implore state lawmakers to make a serious effort to help upstate rebound before giving themselves a raise.