New York state lawmakers’ frequently cited $79,500 base salary does not include the leadership stipends received by more than three-quarters of lawmakers. The average pay for the 60 members of the state Senate who served during all of 2015 was $96,565, according to SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website. In the Assembly, the average among the 144 members was $89,939. Twenty-seven of these 204 lawmakers were paid more than $100,000, not including mileage or per diem payments.
The 1998 legislative pay raise increased base pay to $79,500, its highest inflation-adjusted level ever. Eighteen years later, the inflation-adjusted value of today’s base pay is still higher than it was in 1984, following the 1982 pay raise.
Besides this base pay and stipends, state lawmakers receive state health insurance and reimbursement for mileage to and from Albany. They are also eligible for guaranteed career pensions and retiree health insurance, with the state paying for most of their health insurance premiums and reimbursing lawmakers over 65 for Medicare Part B premiums.
Higher legislative pay and limits on outside income have not ended public corruption in other legislative bodies: In California, where state lawmakers have the country’s highest pay, two state senators were separately convicted during 2016 on federal corruption charges, while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, which strictly limits members’ outside income, was convicted this year on federal charges that included bribery.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.