August 25, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in Albany (v2)

Nathaniel Brooks/New York Times
In my post the other day, the first in a new occasional series focused on what's going on in New York's capital,  I talked about the limited number of days our part-time legislators are required to spend in in Albany, how much time they seem to spend fundraising, and how we can't account for the time they spend on the job when they're not in session. All of that leads us to today's post, where I take a look at some of the pros and cons of giving the NY Legislature a raise.

First, the cons:
  • The senators and assembly members know what the pay and benefits are going in; it's not a secret.  They also know that they job will require them to be away from home off and on during six-month legislative season during which time they'll be expected to participate in committee meetings, caucus meetings, and legislative sessions.  
  • They are officially a part-time legislature. Sure, they'll be expected to put in some time after hours, when their constituents are home from work and have time to call with some complaint or another, but they have a light official schedule. 
  • Their current salary (not counting per diems and lulus) is already the third highest among the state, behind California and Pennsylvania.
  • Other than days the Legislature is in session, we have no idea what they're doing on our behalf, or how much time they spend on our business.
  • The legislators receive a pension for what is, in effect, a volunteer position, and something many of their constituents don't have for their full-time jobs.
  • Many of them have outside income, which is not unexpected given that the legislature is supposed to be a part-time job.
  • At any time, a legislator can not run for re-election if they feel they can't live on the salary they make.

Now, the pros:
  • The salary has not gone up since 1999, which admittedly is a long time to go without a pay increase. 
  • The salary is not competitive with other public sector jobs, such as those earned by say, unionized government workers, or with comparable private sector jobs.
  • We can't get good people to run because the pay is too low; this is particularly true for legislators from New York City or other areas with a high cost of living.
  • The salary is so low, elected officials will fall victim to schemes of personal enrichment because they need the money.
  • What they do is worth more than what they get.
  • They are really a 'full time' legislature because of everything they do outside the official calendar, and so deserve more money.
  • The outside income they receive could also lead them ethically astray, because they might legislate on behalf of their own interests rather than those of the rest of us. 

Have I missed anything in either of the lists, or does that pretty  much cover it?  

Coming up, we'll look at the proposed increase, and some conditions that might be attached to the raise to get the commission working on it to come to a recommendation.