New York lawmakers give themselves a raise

It's Christmas in Albany.

New York state lawmakers are giving themselves a $32,000 pay raise, bringing their total annual salary to $142,000 starting in 2023. That is a 29% raise over their current salary of $110,000.

This makes them the highest-paid legislature in the country, surpassing even California, which has a larger population. 

"This timing is horrific," Sen. Andrew Lanza said on the floor of the Senate. 

"The cost of daily living is squeezing everyone in the state," Sen. Pam Helming said. "This body should take immediate action to provide some relief for our constituents, rather than prioritizing our own incomes."

State lawmakers headed back up to Albany on Thursday for the second special session of the year, a bill that goes on the taxpayer tab, and approved this pay raise bill in both houses.

The Legislature is typically in session from January through June but only work roughly 60 days out of those six months. 

Besides just their salary, legislative leaders in New York can also get up to an additional $41,500 a year in stipends. 

But some Democrats defended the sharp increase. 

"We did factor in an inflation rate," Sen. Liz Krueger said. "We're also, frankly, assuming that we will go many, many years again before we increase the salary based on the statistics of how infrequently we raise our salaries."

The last time state lawmakers received a pay raise was in 2018. At that time, it was their first raise in 20 years. Mayor Eric Adams raised the issue back in 2007 when he was a state senator. 

"Show me the money," Adams said on the Senate floor at the time. "That's what it's all about. We deserve more money."

Outside income will also be capped at $35,000 per year starting in 2025 under this pay raise bill. Some say this will create career politicians. 

Sen. George Borrello, who is also a business owner, also spoke on the Senate floor Thursday.

"It further insulates us from the impact of the harm that we do," Borrello said. "I bear the scars every day when I walk into this chamber or do my job in the district of what it's like to do business here, to operate a business as do others."

"We're creating a professional ruling class, as opposed to a citizen legislator," Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said. 

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters though that lawmakers should be focused on their job as a representative of their district. 

"It's a full-time job," Stewart-Cousins said. "People are working throughout the year, and to wait until 20 or 30 years for a raise isn't reasonable either for lawmakers."

There was also talk of potentially making changes to the state's controversial bail laws during this special session, but Stewart-Cousins said this was not the time.

"We never, ever want to mix compensation with policy," she said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bill into law.