ALBANY, N.Y. — New York lawmakers will soon make the highest state legislative salary in the country after a state compensation panel voted Thursday to raise their pay for the first time in 20 years.
The 63 percent increase will be phased in over three years, with legislative pay going from the current $79,500 a year to $110,000 on New Year’s Day. Additional increases in 2020 and 2021 will bump up the total to $130,000.
New York now trails only California and Pennsylvania when it comes to how much it pays its legislators. By comparison, members of Congress make a base salary of $174,000, while members of the New York City Council make $148,000.
Many lawmakers — especially those from high-cost areas in and around New York City — have long argued that their pay hasn’t kept up with inflation and doesn’t reflect work they do outside of the six-month legislative session. But those same lawmakers have been reluctant to vote themselves a pay raise, especially following a number of high-profile political corruption convictions in recent years.
Members of the pay committee also voted to limit how much money lawmakers can earn from outside jobs, which were found to be conduits for bribes in some past corruption cases.
About a third of all lawmakers earn a significant amount of money from outside work. The proposal suggested by the committee, similar to the rules for members of the Congress, would cap that amount at no more than 15 percent of total salary, beginning in 2020.
Similar proposals have been blocked in the Senate in the past, but that chamber’s new leader, Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said Thursday that she believes her colleagues would support a cap on outside pay. Democrats won control of the Senate from Republicans in last month’s elections.
“My Senate Democratic colleagues and I continue to support that,” she said in a statement.
Good-government groups have long pushed for broader reforms to be included with any salary increase. Blair Horner, director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Thursday that New Yorkers aren’t likely to support an increase in legislative salaries that doesn’t come with greater ethics reforms.
“I think it will resonate poorly,” he said of the pay hike.
The four-member pay committee is made up of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl McCall, who is also a former state comptroller; and former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson.
The committee also recommended increasing the pay of the governor from the current $179,000 salary to $250,000 in 2021. That increase would need to be approved by lawmakers.
The legislative pay raise will go into effect automatically on Jan. 1 unless lawmakers vote to reject it. The pay committee must submit its decisions in a formal report by Monday. Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to reconvene until the 2019 session begins Jan. 9.