Cuomo Says Albany Pay Raises Need to be Addressed

Cuomo said "at some point" his commissioners, who pull down six-figure salaries, and staff need raises so state government can attract and retain top talent

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some legislators are making the case for raises in Albany.

    Cuomo said "at some point" his commissioners, who pull down six-figure salaries, and staff need raises so state government can attract and retain top talent. He said Thursday that he knows of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's continued support for pay raises if the Legislature stays on the effective course it started last year, but Cuomo said there haven't been serious discussions.

    "It is not a discussion I have had ... on any serious level," Cuomo said Thursday.

    Discussion of pay raises that have been rejected for a decade because of voter anger toward Albany's dysfunction, spending and taxing. It comes now as Cuomo exacted wage freezes from unionized workers.

    "That's why we're not talking about," said Cuomo, whose $179,000 salary is fixed by law. "It is an issue we have to deal with sooner or later," Cuomo said of raises in the executive branch.

    Lawmakers' pay raises are usually tied to raises for the governor's staff and judges, who already reserved funding for raises or nearly 18 percent.

    "There has been absolutely no discussion of a legislative pay raise, and it's not something we are considering," said Scott Reif, spokesman for the Senate's Republican majority.

    In the past, lawmakers usually raised their pay in election years — like this one — but after the November elections.

    "I really think anyone in government today who is thinking about pay raises have their priorities mixed up," said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, the longest serving party leader in New York. He said the governor and the Legislature should enact major, long standing reforms to ease the burden on taxpayers, such as curbing public pensions, shrinking government and relieving local governments of unfunded state mandated programs.

    "You have to earn the pay raise," Long said. "I don't think the time is right to even consider it."

    Senators and Assembly members haven't had a raise in over 10 years. Their base pay is $79,500 for what is considered a part-time job, in addition to leadership stipends worth tens of thousands of dollars and $165 per day expense for when they are in Albany.

    "Members deserve a raise," Silver had said, expressing his personal opinion earlier this week. He said the majority conference hasn't discussed it.

    "It's time for us to probably put together a study commission and see what is appropriate," Silver said. "That's what I would support, have somebody look at what would be fair and reasonable."

    Cuomo and the Legislature are now considering Cuomo's second budget after cutting spending and addressing a $10 billion deficit a year ago amid a year they all declared a historic success.

    Cuomo's 2012-13 budget proposal recommends cuts in many programs for the poor including delaying an increase in the welfare grant. Cuomo and the Legislature raised taxes in December for millionaires after promising not to in their 2010 campaigns. That is providing a small, but rare tax cut for middle class families in a measure that increased state spending by $2 billion, which they also promised to reject.

    Silver's proposal to raise the minimum wage is also going nowhere at this point, although Cuomo said Thursday he is "philosophically" supportive of raising the minimum wage. Cuomo said he needs to know how much and when Silver proposes to change minimum hourly wage now at $7.25.