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

A Politically Active Medical Group Gains Access to Funds for ‘Distressed’ Providers

A politically connected medical group in the Bronx garnered an unusual benefit in the new state budget – access to money previously reserved for financially troubled safety-net hospitals and nursing homes. Read More

Budget deal increases state-share Medicaid spending by 13 percent

(This post has been updated to correct errors.) Albany's newly enacted budget appears to increase the state share of Medicaid spending by $4.2 billion or 13 percent, contin Read More

Albany’s Belated Budget Binge 

State lawmakers have begun passing the bills necessary to implement the state budget for the fiscal year that began April 1. Read More

No Need to Rush Now

The passage of a state budget bill should be a thorough, transparent and democratic process that allows for ample public input and discussion. Read More

The Health Department Releases a Fuller Accounting of COVID’s Deadly First Year

The state Health Department has belatedly published a more complete COVID death count for the pandemic's first year, accounting for more than 6,000 victims who were left out of the state's previous tallies because they died Read More

Hochul chief judge nominee stands up for rights—including elephant’s

Governor Hochul has turned to a Court of Appeals associate judge whose case file includes a 70-page opinion arguing that an elephant should have the legal right to petition for release from the Bronx Zoo. Read More

Hospital Lobby’s TV Campaign Spreads Misinformation About Medicaid

As New York's health-care industry agitates for more money from the state budget, two of its most influential lobbying groups are airing TV ads that make alarmist and inaccurate claims about Medicaid. Read More

The False Claim Behind Albany’s Gray Scare

Public employee unions — and Governor Hochul — are pressuring state lawmakers to increase hiring at state agencies because, they say, more than a quarter of the state workforce is poised to retire. 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!