Governor Andrew Cuomo is asking New York lawmakers to tighten ethics rules in exchange for his approval of their first pay raise in 15 years.

The changes sought by the governor are so sweeping that there’s little chance lawmakers will agree to the deal, said two people familiar with the negotiations. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks aren’t public.

A vote is needed before Dec. 31 for any increase above the current $79,500 minimum salary to go into effect when the new legislature convenes in January. After that point, a raise wouldn’t take effect until 2017. Lawmakers would have to return to Albany for a special session.

The bid for a raise comes at a precarious time for elected officials in the capital. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the Cuomo administration for meddling with and then shutting down an anti-corruption commission the governor created. In March, Cuomo disbanded the panel after nine months, saying it was longer needed because lawmakers agreed to new ethics and campaign rules.

Cuomo, a 57-year-old Democrat, wants limits on the $172 per day stipends lawmakers get while in Albany and restrictions on using campaign funds on personal items, one of the people said. While lawmakers are open to those changes, they’re not willing to go along with at least one other: capping the amount they can earn from outside jobs, the other person said.

“The governor will not entertain a legislative pay raise without a significant reform package, and the legislature has refused to accept one,” Melissa DeRosa, a Cuomo spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Silver’s Pay

In New York, the legislature generally convenes between January and June. Lawmakers are allowed to have outside jobs, and income is unlimited. Their base pay is the third highest in the U.S., behind California and Pennsylvania, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy, which favors lessgovernment spending.

Last year, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, took home at least an additional $650,000 as an attorney with the firm Weitz & Luxenberg, according to his financial-disclosure filings. Dean Skelos, the Long Island Republican who co-leads the Senate, earned at least $150,000 for his work as a lawyer. Bronx Senator Jeff Klein, Skelos’s Democratic counterpart, collected at least $75,000.

Silver points to New York City Council members, who make a base of $112,500 per year without having to travel hundreds of miles for a session. Skelos says 15 years is too long to go without a pay increase.

‘Fiscally Realistic’

Even though lawmakers have an image problem — three were arrested on corruption charges within two months last year — there’s reason to give them a raise, said Susan Lerner, director of Common Cause New York, a government watchdog. Had they received annual cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation since 1999, each would be be making more than $100,000 annually, she said.

Still, the legislature should be a full-time job and there should be limits on outside income, Lerner said.

“We definitely see the fairness of bringing legislators into a fiscally realistic pay scale,” Lerner said. “At the same time, we are concerned that a pay-to-play and corrupting atmosphere continues unabated in Albany.”

The New York Times reported Cuomo’s ethics request on its website last night.

© 2014 Bloomberg L.P.

Tags:

You may also like

Bill Requires Municipalities To Maintain Their Websites

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate. Read More

Albany’s ‘big ugly’ provides political cover, but has some benefits

“This has been one of the worst developments in the political process here in New York in modern history,” said E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center for Public Policy think tank and a former aide to Gov. George Pataki. “It really is corrosive of accountability and democracy and, implicitly, the constitution prohibits it.” Read More

Panel at LIA meeting knocks state single-payer health care bill

"Ninety-three hospitals would lose more than 10 percent of revenue," said Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative  Albany think tank. Read More

‘Pork’ Bill Hangs Over Other Issues in Albany

E.J. McMahon, research director for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, questioned the need for these projects. His organization found recent SAM allocations paid for projects he deemed frivolous such as a skate park and a local highway garage. “It’s this huge mutual back-scratching,” he said. Read More

Capitol pressroom

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and EJ McMahon, Founder and Research Director of the Empire Center, shared their insights into the effects of the legislation and the political implications. Read More

UNFINISHED BUSINESS AS ALBANY SESSION CLOCK TICKS DOWN

Of the $508 million in pork awarded last year, most of it came from the State and Municipal Facilities program, which is widely derided as legislative slush fund, according to an analysis by the fiscally  conservative Empire Center for Public Policy. Read More

Report says move start of state fiscal year, add budget office

Moving the start of the state fiscal year to July 1 and establishing a Legislative Budget Office are among the recommendations of the Empire Center to improve accountability in the budget process. Read More

Lawmakers look to make New York even more litigious

A 2017 study by the Empire Center found liability costs in New York exceed $20 billion a year. If those costs were passed on to every household in the state — which really they are, in a way, because all affected organizations and insurers have to pass their costs on to their clients —- it would work out to be $2,700 annually. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.