New York state legislature leaders have been discussing whether to hold a special session this month and take up, among other issues, pay raises for lawmakers. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne spoke with a few state senators to get their reaction.
Republican Senator Terrence Murphy, who just won re-election to a second term, says a pay raise for lawmakers who make a base salary of $79,500 for what is technically a part-time job should be conditional.
“If they’re going to do it, they better tie ethics reform to it. I said that when I was campaigning, I said, you know what, at the end of the day, it’s one of these things, they haven’t had a raise in 19 years,” Murphy says. “I’m not, to be quite honest with you, really in favor of spending more money but, at the end of the day, if they’re going to do it, they better, better put ethics reform to it.”
Murphy’s 40th District includes a slice of Dutchess and parts of Putnam and Westchester Counties. Republican Senator Sue Serino, also re-elected to a second term, opposes a pay raise.
“So I don’t think it should be tied to anything and I’ve been a no right from the beginning,” says Serino. “We’ll see what happens. I haven’t gotten a call yet.”
Serino opposes the pay raise even if it is tied to something she supports, like term limits.
“And now they’re trying to tie term limits to this as well,” Serino says. “I’m on a separate bill for term limits which I, I agree, we need term limits. I think that’s a good start to ending corruption in Albany.”
Serino has said she would limit herself to eight years, or four terms. Her 41st Senate District includes most of Dutchess County and part of Putnam. Senator David Carlucci, an Independent Democrat, takes issue with lawmakers addressing their own pay raise.
“I think it’s very hard to have elected officials vote on their own pay raise. I just don’t think that’s an appropriate mechanism. I’ve always thought that the way to do it is take it outside of the legislature, make it non-political, have it deal with economic factors and trends in New York state, to make it really fair because then, otherwise, how are you really doing it. Otherwise, it’s just an arbitrary number,” Carlucci says. “I’m hopeful that, if anything, it could be the formation of a commission that’s going to not weigh in politics.”
His comments come after the independent New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial, & Executive Compensation, meeting a November 15 deadline, decided against giving lawmakers a pay raise. One day later, Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a joint statement saying it is unfortunate that the governor’s appointees to the Commission once again felt the need to demand legislative action in exchange for an increase in compensation. Heastie underscores that Assembly Democrats are not going to do something he terms as “wildly inappropriate” — trading a pay raise for any piece of legislation. Such a trade also is something Senator Carlucci opposes.
“It’s a way to horse trade and that’s something that’s, I think, frowned upon from the public if they really get a sense of, okay, well, do this for that. And that’s something that we’re trying to get away from,” says Carlucci. “We’re trying to say, hey, weigh legislative issues on their own merits and that’s really the best way to go about it.”
Carlucci, whose 38th District includes parts of Rockland County and a piece of Westchester, would like to see comprehensive ethics reform, including a ban on outside income for state lawmakers, but not tied to a legislative pay hike. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that if the legislature is called into special session to discuss pay raises, he would like to see other items on the table, such as ethics reform and funding for a new hate crimes task force.