It may not surprise you to know that 80 percent of New Yorkers oppose a pay raise for New York State’s legislators, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. After all, this was the place known for its rampant dysfunction just a few years ago. And let’s not forget the crooks the legislature has recently turned out (State Senators Carl Kruger and Pedro Espada, etc.)
But low and behold, at least one legislator is not afraid to ask for a raise. State Senator Ruth-Hassell-Thompson, Democrat from Mount Vernon, told the Journal News, “It’s the ignorance from the public in terms of really being educated about what their legislators really do. Half the people don’t know what the hell we do. We don’t educate them enough.”
While that kind of talk may be surprising to some, you really have to appreciate the candor.
But as for a raise, well, let’s look at the numbers. The legislators have not had a bump in 13 years. The job is considered part-time, but they make $79,500 a year — not chump change. And they are entitled to thousands more if they have a leader’s job. Plus, they can pick up per diems of $171 for when they visit in Albany. Legislators are also entitled to moonlight, and many do, socking away thousands of dollars more.
Only two other states, California and Pennsylvania, pay legislators more. And by comparison, Texas pays all of $7,500 per year (the Lone-Star state’s legislature meets once every TWO years!)
New York legislators are said to be looking at a bump up to $100,000 a year! And get this: many believe they will vote on the plan AFTER the November elections. Of course.
But let’s see if they try. The Quinnipiac poll says the opposition to a raise crosses all gender, age and race lines. And even 10 percent says legislators should NEVER get a raise!
It makes sense that if you want talented, qualified people in public life, you have to pay them. But so many families have been actually suffering cuts for years that a pay raise for legislators could be a tough sell.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says there are no “deep discussions” about a pay raise, but that’s now, and November is later.
The 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States allows Congress to vote itself a pay raise, but the boost cannot take effect until another Congressional election has taken place. This way, voters can tell Congress what they think of the move, before members get their raise. Nice idea.