State Pay Commission Recommends Increases (With a Catch or Two)

The New York State Pay Compensation Committee, established as part of last year’s budget, has released a report recommending pay raises for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, comptroller, executive agency commissioners, and State legislators.

The recommendations also eliminate the current bonuses or “lu-lus” traditionally awarded to committee chairs, while maintaining those for a select group of legislative leaders. These raise are contingent upon the legislature and Governor adopting on time State budgets, and complying with new restrictions on outside income.

The restrictions follow the Congressional model and limit outside income to no more than fifteen percent of the legislative base salary beginning January 1, 2019. There will also be a prohibition of any compensation related to a firm or partnership which provides services involving a fiduciary responsibility to the employer or clients. This would prohibit legislators from earning income in a variety of professions including accountants, lawyers, insurance executives, financial sectors, and in many instances business owners.

There have been concerns raised that the pay commission overstepped their authority by attempting to link pay raises to the adoption of outside income limits, as well as the passage of on time budgets.

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan released a statement taking issue with the attempts to limit outside income. “The committee was never tasked with making any determination on that matter, and should not have made one. By doing so, they alone are deciding who is eligible to run for public office in New York and who is not. Additionally, previous efforts to cap outside income were advanced via a constitutional amendment, and therefore, if challenged, this effort would likely be ruled unconstitutional.”

Governor Cuomo, who has for years supported legislative pay raises which are tied to limits on outside income, said that he expects a legal challenge to be filed against the limits. However, he also noted that a lawsuit could be avoided by passing legislation that writes the committee’s recommendations into law.

Absent a court order to stay action or any new legislation enacted on the subject, the recommendations automatically go into effect January 1, 2019, and would raise base legislative salaries from $79,500 to $110,000; $120,000 on January 1, 2020; and $130,000 on January 1, 2021.

A link to the full report is available here. 

Update – Dec 14, 2018: The Government Justice Center filed a lawsuit challenging the committee’s decision. The Government Justice Center is representing Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, a Long Island Republican; two Saratoga County residents, Robert Arrigo, and David Buchyn; and Bronx resident Roxanne Delgado. More information, including the lawsuit filing can be found here.