Panel Rejects Pay Hike for New York State Lawmakers

ALBANY (AP) -

A call to raise the salary of New York state lawmakers was rejected Tuesday by a special commission charged with reviewing whether the $79,500-a-year salary should be increased for the first time in nearly two decades.

The state commission has been reviewing legislative salaries since earlier this year after several lawmakers broached the idea of a raise. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, spoke out on behalf of many lawmakers last month when he called a pay bump “long overdue.”

But Tuesday the idea fell flat when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s three appointees on the seven-member commission said they wouldn’t support an increase, partly because no lawmaker spoke in favor of an increase at the commission’s meetings.

“Those seeking increases have an obligation to make their case … to the public they are elected to serve,” said Fran Reiter, a Cuomo appointee. Reiter said Cuomo’s appointees would be open to a pay hike — if lawmakers passed stronger ethics rules.

Although many legislators supported a pay raise, the prospects come at a politically touchy time after more than 30 lawmakers have left office facing allegations of criminal or ethical wrongdoing since 2000.

Their legislative pay, last increased in 1999, is already the third highest in the nation.

Members appointed by the Legislature argued that the current salary hasn’t kept up with the cost of living and prevents many New Yorkers from considering public service.