New York legislators yesterday voted to raise their salary to $142,000 in a lame-duck special session. This was their first such vote since 1998, when they also passed a pay bill after the general election. That time, Governor Pataki got concessions from the Legislature in exchange, including a law allowing charter schools in the Empire State. 

Governor Hochul appears at first glance not to have gotten anything. The pay raise was the only item on the agenda. 

But Hochul still has a hand to play. Despite both chambers being controlled by supermajorities, the special session’s timing has given the governor special leverage. While lawmakers ordinarily can override a governor’s veto, here lawmakers will have no power to act if Hochul rejects the pay raise. 

Under the state Constitution, a legislator’s salary may not be “increased or diminished during, and with respect to, the term for which he or she shall have been elected.” That means any raise must be fixed by law before January 1. 

A bill becomes law when the Governor approves it by signing. If the Governor does not approve, the measure is sent back to the house where it originated with the Governor’s objections—the veto. By a vote of two-thirds of each house the Legislature can override the veto. 

When the Legislature is in session, the Governor has ten days (not including Sundays) to sign a bill after it is presented. Even without his or her signature, a bill becomes a law as if the Governor signed it if the Governor does not act within that time.  

However, the Legislature’s term ends December 31st. It passed its pay raise bill on December 22nd. That means Hochul essentially has the chance to run down the clock. The Legislature cannot override a veto it hasn’t received, and the veto period won’t be “dead” before the legislative term ends on New Year’s Eve. 

Hochul was initially supportive of a pay raise, but if its size and way it was passed has given her a change of heart, she still has the chance to block any pay increase for the next two years. Letting time run out on the bill would save taxpayers about $16 million over that time, when factoring in payroll taxes and retirement contributions. 

By waiting until December 22nd, the Legislature put itself at the mercy of the Governor’s approval. Hochul holds the cards. Let’s see whether she plays them. 

About the Author

Cam Macdonald

Cameron J. “Cam” Macdonald is an Adjunct Fellow with the Empire Center and Executive Director and General Counsel for the Government Justice Center.

Read more by Cam Macdonald

You may also like

The Full Senate Must Vote on Hochul’s Chief Judge Pick 

Governor Hochul may be getting ready to take the confirmation battle for her Court of Appeals chief judge nominee, Hector LaSalle, to the courts. Read More

Hochul’s agenda mostly sidesteps health care

Governor Hochul gave health care surprisingly little attention in her State of the State speech on Tuesday – a sign that taking on dysfunction in one-sixth of the state's economy ranks low on her list of priorities. Read More

In State Budgeting, Process Matters

At a panel event in Albany being hosted by the tomorrow morning, The Empire Center’s EJ McMahon and other budget experts and observers will discuss the timely topic of state budget process reform. Read More

Unions push for government inefficiency

A bill awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature or veto would make it more difficult for state agencies to outsource work. Read More

NY lawmakers want to be nation’s highest-paid

New York’s part-time senators and assemblymembers are poised to give themselves a 29 percent pay increase that would make them, by far, the highest paid state Legislature. Read More

Hochul’s Call on Crypto Bill Puts Climate Agenda over Upstate Economy

After remaining for months on the fate of the proposed two-year moratorium on crypto-mining, Governor Kathy Hochul has now the bill into law, as her administr Read More

Albany’s Underbaked, Overdue Budget Update Finally Arrives

The Hochul Administration has finally released an overdue budget report—which, on first look, shows the state's fiscal outlook virtually unchanged.  Read More

Hochul’s Pandemic Study Is Off to an Underwhelming Start

Although Governor Hochul's long-promised review of New York's COVID response hasn't formally started yet, it has already exposed important information about the state's pandemic preparedness – much of which is unflattering. Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!