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.
Legislation (A10730/S9617) filed late Monday evening by legislative leaders would increase members’ pay to $142,000, taking effect when the new session begins in January. Besides their salary, New York state lawmakers are eligible for state healthcare, dental and vision coverage, retiree health coverage, and state retirement benefits. They also receive reimbursements for their travel to Albany and per-diem payments to cover lodging and meals in Albany.
The pay was last increased at the start of 2019, when lawmakers used a constitutionally dubious maneuver to raise the base salary for members from $79,500 to $110,000 using an unelected commission. Subsequent raises ordered by the pay commission, which would have hiked the salary to $130,000 by 2021 if the Legislature passed on-time budgets in 2019 and 2020 were struck down in state court.
California will have the second-highest pay at $122,694. New Jersey will pay its lawmakers $49,000 next year, while Connecticut lawmakers—who raised their pay earlier this year—will get about $45,000 in salary and stipends.
Governor Kathy Hochul had indicated earlier this month she supported a pay raise, saying “they work extremely hard.”
The legislation filed last night would limit, beginning in 2025, the outside income lawmakers could collect to $35,000, linking the cap to the pay state and local government retirees may receive while also collecting a state pension.
The debate regarding legislators as part-time or full-time is more than a century old. Legislators, however, have always been considered part-time because the Constitution contemplates them receiving outside income. The annual legislative session is part of the year, and the Constitution gives legislators only one mandatory job to do—pass appropriations bills. In 1973 the Commission on Legislative and Judicial Salaries posited that the “tasks of a legislator are approaching a full-time commitment.”
The day-to-day tasks of a state lawmaker, however, have changed significantly in recent years as New York lawmakers have done less in terms of the committee process and performing crucial oversight.
Instead, much of the “job” presently described by senators and assemblymembers involves constituent services and public appearances that are connected more to lawmakers’ desire to get re-elected than any statutory or constitutional duty.