SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – New York lawmakers’ pay raises, which are being challenged in court, are expected to go into effect Jan. 1 and would increase legislators’ pay by more than 60 percent over three years. Central New York’s state Assembly members are split on the raises.
Under the plan, the current base pay for lawmakers will go up from $79,500 per year to $110,000. In Jan. 2020, the base pay increases to $120,000, and increases again to $130,000 in Jan. 2021.
Oswego County Republican Assemblyman Will Barclay, who also works as an attorney, said changing the legislature from part time to full time, with the pay bump and a limit of 15 percent of their salary to outside income, will create a professional political class, rather than having a range of representatives not fully reliant on that paycheck.
“We have insurance agents, we have farmers, we’ve had dentists, you have a wide breadth of people that might not otherwise run for office, if it was full time,” Barclay said. “I think that diversity, backgrounds and occupations, bring something to the legislative debate and public policy that I think is important, and I think we will lose that if we have a full-time legislature.”
Syracuse area Democratic Assemblywoman Pam Hunter said that’s a valid concern.
“We want people who are passionate and the best and brightest,” Hunter said.
But Hunter, who does not have outside income, said the pay increases are well overdue and she treats her position as full time.
“The amount and volume of work that is done in order to get to crafting legislation is huge,” Hunter said. “Seeing constituents, meeting with the different businesses in the area takes a huge amount of time.”
She said a separate piece of legislation could also change that limit on outside income.
“We don’t want to say you can only be a public servant if x, y, z,” Hunter said. “We want to make sure we’re not discounting people who want to serve.”
Some legislators may be forced to choose between their elected position or their outside profession, if the limit to outside income remains unchanged. But it does not go into effect until Jan. 2020.