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NY Legislature

Members of the New York Assembly work in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol during the last day of the 2017 legislative session.

Associated Press

Among the many last-minute surprises that came out of the secret state budget negotiations was a provision to create another commission to study state Legislature pay raises.

The commission will also take a look at pay for state agency commissioners and statewide elected officials excluding the governor, but the biggest group to be potentially affected is the 213-member Legislature.

Elected lawmakers have not seen their base pay of $79,500 increase since 1999, so it's not something that should be automatically rejected. But the same issues that derailed a potential pay increase the last time a pay commission was formed, in 2016, have not been resolved.

Chief among them was the official status of the Legislature as a part-time body of citizen lawmakers. This setup allows our individually elected legislators to continue to make earn money through outside jobs, consulting arrangements and other scenarios while they also are paid to be legislators and make decisions on behalf of the people of New York.

It's an arrangement that has led to numerous indictments and convictions of elected legislators who allowed their outside income interests to mingle with their official duties as lawmakers.

Any increase in Legislature pay should come only after outside income restrictions are put in place. That's what the previous pay commission suggested, and we believe it was the correct stance to take.

Another issue that should be addressed on conjunction with Legislature pay is the extra money that lawmakers get on top of their base pay. Most legislators actually bring home several thousand dollars above their salaries through lucrative stipends doled out for committee leadership titles and the $175 per day they get to cover their travel expenses for being in Albany. Both of those items have been abused by legislators, and both can certainly be curtailed to help cover the cost of raises.

The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.

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