State Lawmakers Pay Raise Blocked

Liz Benjamin over at State of Politics blog reports:

“What could have been the final meeting on Tuesday of the commission deciding whether to raise the salaries of state lawmakers and agency chiefs for the next two years devolved into contemptuous arguments over ethics reform and the hidden influence of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“No legislative salary increase was approved even as the governor’s appointees on the board offered a deal that was, for now, rejected by proxies of the Legislature.

“Commission members — appointed by the legislative leaders and the governor — could barely conceal their dislike for each other, with some audibly sighing and rolling their eyes as others spoke. The theme song to “Curb Your Enthusiasm” could have provided an appropriate soundtrack to the at-times biting and awkward exchanges.

“The meeting began with Cuomo appointee Fran Reiter proposing an out-right linkage of a salary increase for the 213 members of the Senate and Assembly to the passage of limits or a ban on outside income.

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said state lawmakers should respond to an “overwhelming outcry” from the public and limit or ban the amount of money they can earn from outside employment.

“Cuomo’s comments in Johnson City came just before a commission appointed by his office and the Legislature declined to agree on increasing legislative pay, which would have been the first salary increase for the Senate and Assembly in 18 years.

“In general, if we’ve heard one thing from the public over and over again, they want reforms in Albany,” Cuomo said. “They want Albany cleaned up. One of the main issues in many of these scandals is the duality that legislators get paid by the public and then they get outside income.”

“Cuomo’s comments largely echoed those made by his appointees on the commission, who said they would be willing to recommend a pay increase for the Legislature if the issue of income was addressed.”