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Make voices heard on state legislator pay raises

Make voices heard on state legislator pay raises

Legislative pay hikes almost inevitable unless citizens speak up

OK, raise your hand if you think state legislators and the governor deserve a pay raise.

Anyone? OK. Yeah, that's kind of what we thought.

After that fiasco of a legislative session that ended earlier this month with almost no improvements to our state, the state’s Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation met in Manhattan Tuesday to deliberate on whether the people responsible for that session deserve more money.

Lawmakers haven't had a bump in pay from their base salaries of $79,500 since 1999, almost 17 years. The governor's salary is $179,000, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes 5 percent less.

Whether the lawmakers deserve a pay based on performance isn't really in dispute. They don't.

But the whole pay raise process itself raises questions.

First, the commission is weighing whether lawmakers work full-time or part-time. If they work full-time, taking into consideration constituent work when they're not sitting around Albany baking bread or whatever they do from January to June, then that could be used to justify a salary bump.

Another issue is this commission itself. The commission — conveniently made up of seven members representing the governor, the Senate and Assembly leadership, and the court system — has until Nov. 15 to make a decision on the pay raise.

With all 213 state lawmakers up for re-election this year, the commission could (and likely will) wait until after they're all safely re-elected on Nov. 8 to put through the automatic recommendation for a raise.

Voters not only won't know if lawmakers are getting a raise, they won't know how much, until after the election.

The only way to negate or reduce the raises would be for legislators to vote to change the recommendations. (Yeah, right.)

Under the old method of raising lawmaker pay, the present crop of legislators would vote in a pay raise for the next seating of the Legislature. But since 1999, they haven’t mustered the nerve to vote themselves or their future selves a raise. The threat of public backlash was too great.

Now they've got this bogus commission to do it for them.

During the commission meeting on Tuesday, one member expressed anger that no lawmakers even had the nerve to come before the body to make their case for a raise.

Well, of course they didn't. Legislators are pretty confident they'll get some kind of pay boost, probably a substantial one, since one of the criteria the commission will consider for the pay raise is how much state spending has increased since they last got one.

No legislator is going to be foolish enough to stand up in public before this commission and make the case for a raise. They don't need to.

The only way to protect taxpayers from paying our state legislators even more money than they already get is for citizens to contact the commission and voice their concerns.

Here are the commissioners’ names: Sheila Birnbaum, chair; Hon. Barry A. Cozier (Ret.); Roman B. Hedges; Mitra Hormozi; Gary Johnson; Hon. James J. Lack (Ret.); and Fran Reiter. Here is the email where you can send your thoughts: [email protected]  .

The commission's next meeting is July 26 in New York City. This is your opportunity have a say.

If you have an opinion on pay raises, get typing.

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