Cuomo to Seek Ethics Bills in Return for Pay Raise

ALBANY (Bloomberg) -

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking New York lawmakers to tighten ethics rules in exchange for his approval of their first pay raise in 15 years.

The changes sought by the governor are so sweeping that there’s little chance lawmakers will agree to the deal, said two people familiar with the negotiations.

A vote is needed before Dec. 31 for any increase above the current $79,500 minimum salary to go into effect when the new legislature convenes in January. After that point, a raise wouldn’t take effect until 2017. Lawmakers would have to return to Albany for a special session.

Cuomo wants limits on the $172 per day stipends lawmakers get while in Albany and restrictions on using campaign funds on personal items. While lawmakers are open to those changes, they’re not willing to go along with at least one other: capping the amount they can earn from outside jobs.

In New York, the legislature generally convenes between January and June. Lawmakers are allowed to have outside jobs, and income is unlimited as they long as they report it. Their base pay is the third highest in the United States.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, points to New York City Council members, who make a base of $112,500 per year without having to travel hundreds of miles for a session. Skelos says 15 years is too long to go without a pay increase.

Even though lawmakers have an image problem — three were arrested on corruption charges within two months last year — there’s reason to give them a raise, said Susan Lerner, director of Common Cause New York, a government watchdog. Had they received annual cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation since 1999, each would be making more than $100,000 annually, she said.