A four-member panel voted Thursday to give state legislators their first pay raise in two decades.
The New York State Compensation Committee agreed to phase-in a pay raise for state legislators over a three-year period. Beginning in January, salaries will increase from $79,500 to $110,000. Annual salaries will rise to $120,000 in January 2020 and $130,000 in January 2021.
The hike will make New York lawmakers the highest paid state legislators in the country. California pays its state legislators a base salary of $107,241.
It's the first pay raise for lawmakers since 1999.
The pay raise for legislators was proposed by Bill Thompson, a former New York City comptroller and member of the compensation panel. He explained that the plan was based on testimony the committee heard at public hearings in Albany and New York City, and research of legislator pay in other states.
"I felt that those were recommendations that made sense," Thompson said.
Thompson and his colleagues on the panel — state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall — agreed that the state Legislature should limit outside income and eliminate most stipends for leadership positions and committee chairs. McCall proposed adopting the congressional model, which limits outside income to no more than 15 percent of a lawmaker's state salary.
The outside income limits will go into effect in 2020.
Stringer advocated for eliminating stipends. Legislative stipends drew negative attention in 2017 when it was revealed that some Senate Republicans received the "lulus" even though they didn't hold the positions listed on a document provided by the state comptroller's office.
One state legislator, state Sen. Pam Helming, returned the $12,500 stipend she received. She was listed as chair of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections committee, but actually served as the panel's vice chair.
Stringer supports maintaining stipends for select legislative posts. Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader, for example, would continue to receive stipends.
The panel recommended increasing the governor's salary from $178,000 to $250,000 at the beginning of 2021. The lieutenant governor's salary would increase to $220,000 over a three-year period.
The attorney general and state comptroller would also receive a pay hike. The salaries for these statewide positions would increase to $220,000.
Salaries for state agency commissioners would increase, too. Commissioners in the top tier would see their salaries increase to $220,000. Other commissioners would earn between $140,000 to $205,000, depending on their classification.
"I do think these numbers are consistent with legislators and statewide leaders who really give it their all," Stringer said.
The four-member committee unanimously approved the pay raises for legislators. For the votes on increasing salaries for statewide officials, DiNapoli abstained. The remaining three members supported the recommendations.
The committee's recommendations will now be included in a report presented to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature. The panel was established in this year's state budget to examine pay raises for state officials.
The state Legislature could return for a special session to consider the pay raise issue. Otherwise, the increases recommended by the committee will take effect Jan. 1.