New York's state lawmakers have not received a pay raise in 20 years, but that could change in the coming weeks as a panel of current and former elected officials decide whether to boost the pay of the legislature.
"It's always complicated [because] there is a lot of emotion attached to this. We're going to try to just do the right thing," said Scott Stringer, (D) New York City comptroller.
It's complicated in part by how the public may perceive a pay raise for a legislature known for its high-profile corruption arrests. Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for limits on how much money lawmakers can earn in the private sector — a proposal that has support from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
"It's my point of view that that's an appropriate reform. The extent this committee has the ability to impose something like that is open to question, but it's certainly a reform that should have been done a long time ago," said DiNapoli.
Lawmakers earn a base pay of $79,500 — third in the country among state legislators behind California and Pennsylvania. But many lawmakers earn more with thousands of dollars in stipends for holding committee chairmanships and leadership titles. Census data shows the median New York household earns $62,000.
Three of the four men on the panel are also potentially sympathetic to the needs of lawmakers. After all, they served in the assembly themselves.
"Whatever happened in the past was as much about dysfunction and gridlock and politics, and I'd like to think this commission has a real opportunity to throw away the last 20 years and start fresh," said Scott Stringer, (D) New York City comptroller.
The panel was created as a way of taking the decision out of the hands of the Legislature and governor. It's also due to consider increasing the pay of state department heads in Cuomo's cabinet.
"I think that's an area that definitely needs action. The whole question is what would be the appropriate level. But I think the consensus is there should be an increase for commissioners," said Carl McCall, SUNY chairman.
The panel's decision is due by December 10.