The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

November 24, 2012

Not time for Legislature raise

The Daily Star

---- — It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

Hurricane Sandy was a very ill wind … and rain … and storm surge that has been and continues to be well-documented. It’s hard to find anything good — other than the often-heroic efforts of those left in its aftermath — about the storm, but there might just be something …

According to Fredric U. Dicker of the New York Post, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided against calling a special session of the state Legislature where lawmakers would be highly expected to vote themselves a raise.

“It’s not going to happen; there’s not going to be a special session before the end of the year,’’ a source Dicker identified as close to Cuomo said. “The governor’s focus is on the flood. He doesn’t have the time now to focus on the other complex issues that would be on the table for a special session, including pay raises for the Legislature.’’

In the walkup to the recent election, none of the Assembly or state Senate candidates interviewed by The Daily Star’s editorial board said he or she would vote for a pay raise. But the measure was expected to pass because of the backing of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Cuomo is said to be willing to go along with the raises as long as commissioners and some appointees to state positions get more money, too.

With the state deeply in debt even before the billions of dollars in damage inflicted by Sandy, this is no time for members of the Legislature to hike their $79,500 base (some make considerably more) annual salaries.

Yes, we are aware that they haven’t had a raise since 1999, but neither have a lot of their constituents — even those fortunate enough to have a job.

It can also be effectively argued that members of the Assembly and Senate haven’t done anything that makes giving them a raise particularly compelling. The Post cited public opinion polls that showed that 80 percent of New Yorkers are against more money for the legislators.

Well, you might say, if the governor doesn’t call a special session, won’t the raise just be brought up in January, the next time the Legislature convenes?

Sure, but since state law forbids lawmakers from raising their pay during their current two-year term, had they had one in December, they would have gotten the dough in 2013. Now, the earliest they could cash in would be 2015.

Giving a post-Sandy immediate raise to members of the Legislature would send precisely the wrong message. The right message from New Yorkers to the lawmakers?