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Lawmakers pay raises under discussion

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Lawmakers pay raises under discussion
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With an on time budget for the second year in a row and the passage of several big ticket bills, it would seem state government is functioning better than it has in years. With that comes renewed talk of raising lawmakers pay, something that hasn't been done in more than a decade. Our Nick Reisman has more on what state leaders are saying about the idea.

NEW YORK STATE -- Governor Andrew Cuomo may have ushered in a new era of functioning state government, but it's the 212 state legislators who helped him get it done. And with two on-time budgets and a string of legislative victories, speculation in Albany is turning to boosting lawmakers' pay beyond the base $79,500.

“I think the men and women of the legislature work hard on both sides of the aisle. You see it here in Rochester, but right now there's no discussion of it,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Despite the insistence that a pay raise isn't on the table, legislative leaders like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver think lawmakers have earned it.

“The salary now is not for full time job, although most of the people do work full time,” Silver said.

The last pay raise came in 1999, when then Governor George Pataki tied a 38 percent increase to expanding charter schools. One possible deal could make lawmakers give up their outside jobs in the private sector in exchange for a pay bump. But that doesn't fly with some legislators who earn significant amounts of money elsewhere.

Silver said, “There are teachers, lawyers, accountants, undertakers. That's who makes up the state legislature and their expertise in their own fields contributes to the overall expertise.”

Any pay raise would likely come after the November general elections and impact the new session of the legislature seated in January 2013. It's also certain that in an era in which most voters have seen their own pay and benefits cut, the public will be enraged.

“You can argue that it's a part time job, why do they get a full time salary. But hey, they're the ones who voted, it's a free country they can do what they want,” said Mickey Carroll, Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Spokesman.

The governor, meanwhile, hasn't ruled out a raise for lawmakers himself. His own commissioners and department chiefs have pay that's stuck at $120,000, making room for another possible deal.

“We'll deal with that issue down the road,” Cuomo said.

But the governor last week also said outside of the talk of a raise, lawmakers deserve credit for passing his agenda over the last 15 months.

Cuomo said, “It's not just they passed a good budget. They have a done an extraordinary job as a group, as a collective, so I think they deserve praise.”

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