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Local lawmakers criticize raise proposal

Local lawmakers criticize raise proposal

Few support raise, but a range of views on outside income limits
Local lawmakers criticize raise proposal
State Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, left, says he will not support a pay raise for state lawmakers.
Photographer: gazette file photo

CAPITAL REGION -- Local Republican state legislators aren't happy with a state commission's pay raise recommendations.

State Sens. George Amedore Jr. and James Tedisco both said they would not support any pay raise that comes to a vote, though they differed on the wisdom of the Legislative Pay Commission's recommendation to limit legislators' outside incomes.

"Outside income has nothing to do with ethical behavior," said Amedore, R-Rotterdam, who is involved in his family's home construction businesses. "All this is going to do is create a bunch of career politicians who do not have have outside real world experience."

The pay commission, which made its recommendations on Thursday and was expected to formally submitted them to the governor and the Legislature on Monday, would raise the annual pay of Assembly members and senators from $79,500 to $110,000 in January. It would further increase to $120,000 in January 2020 and to $130,000 in January 2021.

Unless the Legislature meets before the end of the year and specially rejects the recommendations, they are binding.

If the raise schedule goes into effect, the January boost will be the first for legislators in 20 years. Legislators from downstate, in particular, have argued the $79,500 figure is onerously low, given the cost of living in the New York City area.

But the commission also recommended outside income for legislators be limited -- for the first time -- to no more than 15 percent of their salary, in a measure the commissioners said is intended to address corruption in Albany.

Tedisco said he doesn't have a problem with limiting outside income, since most legislators do the job full-time. Tedisco, R-Glenville, is a former teacher, but he hasn't held another job since entering the Legislature 36 years ago.

"I'm not opposed to eliminating outside income and making it 15 percent," he said. "We may be in session only six months, but we cannot stop going to work, answering phone calls, responding to emails and responding to constituent concerns. Some may be part-time legislators, but I am a full-time legislator. You have to do that when you have constituents to respond to and a $168 billion state budget."

He acknowledged an outside income limit could help reduce corruption, but he added: "The real answer is more transparency about decision-making and how state money is spent."

Amedore said he also voted against the budget's adoption, in part because of the pay commission's recommendation.

"We all know a lot of residents struggle to make ends meet in a very expensive state, and to grant a pay raise like this is out of touch," he said.

Amedore was scornful of setting outside income limits, which he said would keep people with real-world expertise from running for office. He noted his background in construction gave him first-hand experience with state regulations that he said limit opportunity and growth.

"If they want to limit something, it should be terms," said Amedore, a supporter of term limits for legislators.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said he opposes the idea of an outside pay commission determining salaries in both 2016 and this year.

"This job is about service, not about pay," he said. "When someone runs for office, it has to be about service to the community, not about the pay."

Santabarbara, who was a practicing civil engineer before running for the Assembly in 2012, noted that he gave up that job to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.

"I don't need legislation to hold myself to a higher standard, but we're to the point where we may need to have something (in legislation)," he said. He countered the argument that fewer people would seek office by saying they only need to make a two-year commitment to serve in the Legislature and could then return to their previous careers.

Another local assemblyman, Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, issued a statement blasting the pending raises.

"New Yorkers pay the highest taxes in the country. Albany is one of the most corrupt state capitals. So it makes perfect sense that Albany insiders concocted a massive pay raise for themselves that taxpayers are on the hook for, so they can perpetuate their corrupt state government," Tague said.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.



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