Raises on the horizon for state lawmakers

State lawmakers elected this November may benefit from the first pay hike in 20 years for New York’s senators and Assembly members, whose base pay was hiked by 38 percent in 1998 and has remained at $79,500 ever since.

Tucked into the budget the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved on March 30 was the creation of a five-member committee that will determine raises for all 213 lawmakers, plus statewide elected officials and heads of state agencies. The governor and lawmakers tried a similar approach two years ago, but their raise panel dissolved in rancor – and without any pay increase – after the Legislature’s appointees voted for 43 percent raises and Cuomo’s appointees blocked them.

The new panel consists of Chief Judge Jane DiFiore, the comptrollers for the state and New York City, and the SUNY and CUNY board chairmen (both of whom are past comptrollers), and will decide on raises by Dec. 10 – after the elections for all legislative seats and statewide officials. Those increases will take effect on Jan. 1 unless the Legislature convenes before then to change or reject them, an unlikely prospect.

The budget allows the committee to award raises for 2020 and 2021 as well, although legislators can claim them only if they pass a budget by April 1 each of the next two years.

Even with the long raise drought, the New York Legislature, which is in session during the first six months of each year, still had the third highest base pay among U.S. state legislatures as of last year, behind California ($104,118) and Pennsylvania ($86,479), according to the National Conference of State Legislators. The 43 percent pay hike New York’s pay panel considered in 2016 – an increase said to match the combined inflation since 1998 – would have raised base pay to $114,000, highest in the country.

Most New York lawmakers – including nine of 10 of those representing pieces of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties – also get stipends on top of their $79,500 base pay for party leadership positions or for being the chairman or ranking minority member of a committee. Here are the 10 senators and Assembly members for this region and their titles and stipends. (Some have more than one title or chairmanship, but can only receive a stipend for one.)

Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson (39th District)

Assistant majority leader for house operations, $25,000 stipend

Total salary: $104,500

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford (51st District)

Chairman, Majority Program Development Committee: $25,000 stipend

Total salary: $104,500

Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope (42nd District)

Chairman, Judiciary Committee: $18,000 stipend

Total salary: $97,500

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam (46th District)

Chairman, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston (103rd District)

Chairman, Insurance Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh (100th District)

Chairwoman, Mental Health Committee: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Frank Skartados, D-Milton (104th District)

Chairman, Rural Resources Commission: $12,500 stipend

Total salary: $92,000

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford (101st District)

Ranking Republican, Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm, and Nutrition Policy: $9,000 stipend

Total salary: $88,500

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark (98th District)

Ranking Republican, Assembly Labor Committee: $9,000 stipend

Total salary: $88,500

Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury (99th District)

Chairman, Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities: no stipend

Total salary: $79,500

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    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full

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