Will Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Skelos play Santa to their members?

| lpenner@queenscourier.com |

Voters should be aware that after voting for their incumbent State Assemblymembers and State Senators, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos are being lobbied by their members to consider voting themselves a pay hike via the back door. Just like the cowardly lion from the land of Oz, otherwise known as Albany, they lacked the courage to cast this vote in the light of day prior to the November General Election. They would rather conduct it in the dark of night during a Special Session after Election Day. This strategy is designed with the hope that voters will forget this vote two years later, when they run for another two year term in 2014.

For 24 our of the past 27 years, members of the New York State Legislature couldn’t even pass a balanced budget on time. Adding insult to injury, on top of a base $79,500 yearly salary, virtually all accept all the lulus and bonuses for chairing committees (up to $41,500 more) resulting in an average salary of $90,000 to $100,000 per year. This is supplemented by day-to-day meal expense accounts and reimbursement for travel to and from Albany. The State Legislature averages only 66 days in session. Many members also find the time to hold down second outside jobs! Why shouldn’t each member of the New York State Legislature provide us with some healthy information in one of their so-called constituent newsletters paid for by taxpayers? They could tell us how many hours and days actually worked in Albany, detail sources of outside income and amount of time spent practicing law or other outside second jobs, amount of bonuses know as lulus for chairing any legislative committees, amount spent on meals (does your boss pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner during the course of a regular work day?) traveling at taxpayers expense from home to Albany and back (does your employer pay for your commute from home to work on a daily basis?) along with a detailed list of all their “Pay for Play” campaign contributions cross cut against member item pork barrel projects. They can retire on pensions ordinary New Yorkers can only dream about. Many also end up becoming one of the many State Street Albany-based lobbyists. .

Salaries for members of the New York City Council are even higher. In January 2010, New York City Council Speaker and 2013 Mayoral wannabe Christine Quinn announced her appointments of various Council committee chairpersons. Councilmembers loyal to their respective county organizations (the ones that endorsed her candidacy for speaker) were rewarded with salary increases known as lulus ranging from $4,000 to $28,000 to chair Council committees. These were renewed again in January 2011 and 2012. The average salary for a New Yorker is $41,000 per year. A councilmembers base salary is $112,500 plus bonuses, for a part-time job

Salary increases for civil servants and private sector employees are based on the principles of merit, performance, quality of service along with an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Nobody was drafted to run for public office. Everyone knew of both the salary, perks of office and limited work requirements. Members of the State Legislature and New York City Council are both lucky to have their part time jobs and clearly don’t deserve any raises! There are plenty of out of work New Yorkers who would be more than happy to replace them. They would actually show up for work full time and not constantly complain.

If taxpayers don’t offer members of the State Legislature comparable salary, bonuses and perks their little brothers and sisters in the City Council have, they may change jobs just like former State Assembly member Mark Weprin. After older brother David came in dead last in a four way Democratic primary for NYC Comptroller in 2009 — his seat became vacant. Brother Mark swapped his Assembly for David’s Council seat. Brother David inherited Mark’s Assembly seat shortly thereafter. Mark being the smarter brother picked up a $33,000 salary increase. He cut his commute from three hours to Albany for an easy drive to City Hall. Poor David took a $51,000 salary cut (base salary plus lulu) and added three hours each way for his new commute to Albany versus City Hall.

Imagine the chaos of 61 Assembly and 24 Senators deciding to switch offices and run for one of the 51 NYC Council seats in 2013! Losing Councilmembers would follow David Weprin to Albany for less money and more travel time!