Crime and Safety

Gov. Kathy Hochul OK with extra session on legislative pay raise — but not on bail

Gov. Kathy Hochul gave her blessing Friday for state lawmakers to return to Albany in the coming weeks for a special session on raising legislative pay — despite refusing for months to beckon them back to address rising crime.

“I believe they deserve a pay raise. They work extremely hard. It’s a year-round job. I’ve been with them many times in their districts, and they’ve worked very hard and they deserve it. It is up to them on whether or not they want to come back and make that effective,” Hochul told reporters Friday.

The comments follow reports that some legislators are pushing for the Assembly and state Senate to reconvene before the end of the year to pass legislation increasing their pay from $110,000 to $130,000 annually, in time for it to take effect in January.

Otherwise, lawmakers would have to wait until 2025 to get more pay because state rules bar them from raising their own salaries before another two-year term begins.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has not ruled out a special session this December to raise legislative pay.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has not ruled out a special session this December to raise legislative pay.
James Keivom

Republicans expressed bewilderment that Democrats would show themselves the money after ignoring calls for months to reconvene the Legislature for a special session devoted to changing criminal justice reforms approved in recent years, including controversial limits on cash bail that have been blamed for rising crime.

“At a time when New Yorkers can barely afford to make ends meet, with record inflation, & at a time when Dems refuse to address the crime crisis plaguing out streets, it would be the height of arrogance & hubris to call us back to increase legislative pay,” Assemblyman Michael Lawler (R-Rockland), who won a seat in Congress last month, tweeted Friday amid the ongoing suspense about how Democrats might handle the pay issue.

Hochul claimed during the gubernatorial campaign against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk) that calling Democratic lawmakers back to Albany after their regularly scheduled session ended in June would not have been productive considering their resistance to amending state bail laws.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday she is OK with state lawmakers getting a pay raise.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday she is OK with state lawmakers getting a pay raise.
Matthew McDermott

“You bring back the special session when the Legislature is willing and an agreement going into on certain changes. Otherwise, they gavel in, they gavel out. OK? That’s the reality. I have to deal with realities here,” she said.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) did not provide comment Friday.

A controversial commission empowered by the state Legislature to raise their pay decided in 2018 to raise salaries from $80,000 to $110,000 at the beginning of 2019 while restricting how lawmakers could make income outside their day job.

But legal challenges invalidated the restrictions on outside income while nixing a second pay raise to $130,000 per year, which would make state lawmakers the highest-paid in the nation.

Some lawmakers have claimed that $110,000 per year is not enough money considering rising prices and the sky-high costs of living in New York City in particular, especially considering more lucrative opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Stewart-Cousins with outstretched arms at a microphone
Andrea Stewart-Cousins has been quiet this week about whether she supports a special session before 2022 ends to give lawmakers a $20,000 raise.
James Keivom

“You get what you pay for,” one legislator told The Post on Thursday about the effect salary levels have on the quality of lawmakers overseeing the state budget and important policy matters.

But some lawmakers said they do not expect to be anywhere near Albany this holiday season, though a pay raise might get approved once the regularly scheduled session begins in January, which would take effect at the beginning of 2025.

“The Speaker would not call us back for a pay raise only. Not happening. But he might consider it with the Senate majority leader while in session but definitely not a special session just for that,” Assemblywoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) said.

Heastie repeatedly used the phrase “at this moment” while signaling to reporters at the state Capitol in Albany on Thursday that the situation remains up in the air.

“I have not said anything about coming back for a pay raise at this moment,” he said before adding: “I believe that legislators need to be compensated for the hard work that they do. People don’t realize the sacrifice that they make being away from their families.”

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