New York Lawmakers Protect Pay Raises With Taxpayer-Funded Attorneys | Citizens Against Government Waste
The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

New York Lawmakers Protect Pay Raises With Taxpayer-Funded Attorneys

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


While a potential pay raise for members of Congress seems to have been tabled for now, an equally atrocious attempt to abuse taxpayer funds is occuring in the Empire State.  

On June 7, 2019, New York Supreme Court Judge Christine Ryba upheld a December 2018 law providing legislators with a $50,500 pay raise.  Judge Ryba also struck down ethics provisions that originally prevented legislators from taking outside money on top of the salary increase.

The legislators’ argue that despite being the third highest paid legislature in the country they are due for their first salary bump since 1998.  Lawmakers cited cost of living and inflation as justification for the uptick, even though each chamber is only in session for half of the year.

In an attempt to shield themselves from justifiable political backlash state lawmakers created an unelected special compensation commission that would have the authority to rule over pay increases for the legislature.  On December 10, 2018, the commission awarded Albany pay raises, but banned taking outside money to appease wary citizens.  The commission received the blessing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), who is positioned to become the highest paid governor in the country as a result of the decision.  Within three years, New York will become the highest paid state legislature in the country.

Albany politicians still received public backlash and a legal challenge from the Government Justice Center (GJC) on the constitutionality of the original ruling. To defend their raises from GJC’s lawsuit , New York lawmakers doubled-down and spent more than $150,000 on attorney fees, all from the pockets of taxpayers.

Any legislator, whether local, state, or federal, should be wary of voting to increase their own pay.  Given New York’s laundry list of fiscal issues, Albany lawmakers should feel especially ashamed. Under Gov. Cuomo, New York has amassed one of the highest debts in the nation.  It ranks dead last in economic outlook according to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 12th edition of Rich States, Poor States, and ranks 41st fiscally according to the Mercatus Center.  New York still also owes tens of billions of dollars to its retirees.  Beyond a bleak fiscal outlook, several lawmakers were arrested for accepting millions in backdoor payments from a variety of private companies.

The New York example is particularly cowardly not only because of the steep price tag, but the fact that they employed taxpayer-funded attorneys in the fight to maintain their salary bumps.  The New York Supreme Court’s affirmation of the pay raises and broadening of the original decisions represents a dangerous step towards more government waste and corruption in the Big Apple and beyond.

-- Blake Leonard

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