Reinvent Albany Calls for Substantial Pay Raise for State Officials Coupled with Major Restrictions on Outside Income, Lulus and Per Diems


Reinvent Albany recommended a 50 percent pay raise for statewide electeds, lawmakers and agency heads coupled with major restrictions on outside income, lulus and per diems for lawmakers in testimony before the New York State Compensation Committee today.

The raise is consistent with the rate of inflation from the last pay hike in 1999, and would bring legislators’ salaries up to $120,000.  The Compensation Committee will determine salary increases for state officials by December 10th. The recommendations will go into effect as law unless the legislature acts to change them.

“Statewide electeds, lawmakers, and agency commissioners deserve a significant raise,” said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor for Reinvent Albany.  “But compensation changes should also include major restrictions on outside income, virtual elimination of lulus, and caps on per diems.”

Reinvent Albany calls for limiting outside income of lawmakers to $21,750, or 15 percent of what Reinvent Albany believes legislative leaders should earn.  Congress has a similar limitation on outside income. Lawmakers should be prohibited from holding an outside job in which services offered involve a fiduciary relationship (such as legal or financial work or serving on boards of nonprofits, corporations or associations) or use the member’s name.  Lawmakers should be banned from receiving compensation for speeches, articles or appearances (honoraria) except for small sums which can be donated. Lawmakers should not be able to buy stocks in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) or other options not available to the public. In a report issued in 2015 with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and Common Cause New York,  Reinvent Albany found only ⅓ of lawmakers filing financial disclosure forms in 2014 made more than $20,000 in outside income.

Reinvent Albany wants lulus abolished altogether except for legislative leaders, who could earn $25,000 extra for their increased responsibilities, bringing their salaries to $145,000.  160 of 213 lawmakers currently earn $10,000-$41,500 in lulus for chairing committees or for holding leadership positions. Eliminating nearly all lulus will create a legislature where rank-and-file lawmakers have more latitude to speak their mind or disagree with their leader without fear of retribution.

Reinvent Albany recommends per diems be capped in the aggregate at $175 a day multiplied by the number of session days plus one extra day for each week of session.  In 2018, the cap would have been $14,525. Some lawmakers have received over $20,000 annually in per diems and at least two lawmakers have been convicted of crimes related to per diems.

Reinvent Albany similarly recommends a 50 percent rate-of-inflation increase for state agency heads and doing away with or creating more flexibility in salary bands for state agencies.  Reinvent Albany believes the statewide electeds should receive 5 percent more than the highest paid agency head.  Statewide electeds and agency heads should also have outside income restricted as recommended for lawmakers and including prohibitions on receiving royalties for book deals.  Domestic partners should also be included in financial disclosure requirements.