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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.

The New York State Compensation Committee last week announced at its meeting that it will be recommending significant raises for state lawmakers, commissioners and statewide elected leaders. It also said there should be conditions attached to the raises for legislators, including restrictions on their outside income sources and elimination of most legislative stipends now in place for committee leadership posts.

The raise structure for legislators would bring base pay from roughly $80,000 yearly to $110,000 starting in 2019. It would then go up by $10,000 in 2020 and another $10,000 in 2021. Outside income would be limited to no more than 15 percent of base pay starting in 2020. At least, that's how it was explained at last week's meeting.

In general, the structure followed what most good-government advocates and a large number of editorial boards, including this one, were calling for when the pay panel began its public work shortly after the election.

The key, though, is what we'll find out on Monday. That's the day the compensation's committee's official report is due to be presented to the Legislature.

The four people serving on that committee need to make sure this report's wording is precise in the restrictions that must come with a raise that will make our state representatives the highest paid in the country by far.

The main reason for paying attention to the report's language is the way the commission's work would be implemented. Under the law passed this year, the Legislature could hold a special session before Jan. 1 to reject or modify the raises. Otherwise, the commission's report, including the raises, becomes law.

And if that report becomes law, there must be no room for wiggling out of the vital restrictions that would not only make these raises a fair bargain for the state taxpayers, but would also be a solid state government reform. Don't forget the reason so many Albany watchdogs have railed against unlimited outside income for so long: It's contributed greatly to the state's notorious corruption.

It's important to adjust legislative pay to make sure these jobs are attracting bright, effective and ethical candidates. Raises haven't taken place in roughly two decades. But it must be done in a way that's reasonable to the New York taxpayers that fund these salaries.

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

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