First order of business for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers after the election: pay hikes!
A state panel will meet Tuesday to come up with recommendations to boost salaries for legislators and state agency executives for the first time in 20 years.
The New York State Compensation Committee was created as part of the $168 billion election-year state budget approved earlier this year.
Legislators get a base salary of $79,500, set in 1998. But they also get thousands of dollars in leadership stipends or lulus boost their compensation.
Any deal on a pay increase, to take effect beginning in 2019, would have to be approved by Dec. 31 to happen. Lawmakers are barred from voting themselves raises during their next two-year term.
The $79,500 salary for Albany legislators is substantially lower than the $148,500 paid to New York City council members, or $174,000 for members of Congress, but higher than legislators in other states including Illinois ($67,836), neighboring Massachusetts ($62,548), Hawaii ($61,380), Ohio ($60,584) and Wisconsin ($50,950), a commission comparison shows.
More problematic is the lower salaries of state agency commissioners, which in some cases are $100,000 less than NYC agency heads, Cuomo said.
For example, state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker is paid $136,000 while city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot is paid $226,366, the commission noted in a comparison.
During budget talks earlier this year Cuomo said, “I desperately need a pay raise for the employees in the executive chamber, the executive agencies to be competitive. We’re trying to get quality people into state government and frankly we are wholly un-competitive.”
Many legislators were hoping for a pay hike two years ago, when a salary panel appointed by Cuomo appeared to recommend it. But things fell apart when the governor insisted on adding a restriction on outside income for legislators and no raise was approved.
Cuomo on Wednesday again raised the issues of restrictions on outside income as part of ethics reform to curb conflicts of interest and pay-to-play corruption. Some legislators work for law firms or companies that are regulated or do business with the state.
“Legislative jobs should be full-time … with restrictions on outside income,” he said.
The members of the pay commission are SUNY board chairman and former state Comptroller Carl McCall, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, city Comptroller Scott Stringer and CUNY board chairman Bill Thompson.
McCall, DiNapoli and Stringer previously served in the Legislature — and appear sympathetic to recommending an increase.
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