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Local lawmakers weigh in on potential pay raises

New York State lawmakers are set to get their first pay raise in 20 years, but at least one local legislator is pushing back. 

"The median pay for a New Yorker is $63,000. We make $79,500 now. To raise it $30,000 next year I think is excessive," said State Senator Chris Jacobs, a republican from Buffalo who represents the 60th district.

The $30,000 increase is part of the recommendation from an independent compensation commission, a four-member panel convened earlier this year to look at the issue of state leader salaries. 

The commission recommends increasing state lawmaker salaries from just under $80,000 now to $110,000 in 2019, $120,000 in 2020, and $130,000 in 2021. That would ultimately be a 64 percent increase over the current salary base. 

"The comments I'm getting from my constituents are shock, outrage, and offense that this would be done," Jacobs told News 4. 

And, as things stand now, lawmakers are not scheduled to vote on this issue.

Under New York State law, the governor will sign the pay raises into effect unless there's a special session to block them before the end of this year. Jacobs says that special session needs to happen.

"I'm urging the leadership of the senate to have a special session so we can be on record to vote whether we're for or against  this proposal," Jacobs said. "I certainly will vote against it."

Still, other local lawmakers say they'll accept the will of the compensation commission, pointing out that having an independent group make this decision is far better than the alternative.

"I know that in the past, legislators at all levels have at times raised their own pay, and while the Constitution might require that, that seems kind of unseemly to me, and very uncomfortable and awkward to me," said State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, a republican from Elma who represents the 60th district.  

"I think having an independent body look at it is the appropriate thing to do," he said.

Many state lawmakers have been calling for some sort of pay raise for years. They haven't had a raise in two decades, not even a cost of living adjustment. 

And, the commission has tied this proposed raise to a caveat intended to prevent issues with corruption, limiting outside income to 15 percent of a lawmaker's salary.

State Sen. Gallivan applauds the reforms. "Reforms that people have been clamoring for," he said, "and reforms that are probably appropriate and necessary."

"I want to have that discussion and I think we can talk about that. I think I'm much more focused on transparency," Jacobs countered.

The pay commission is set to release its formal recommendation on Monday. 

That recommendation will also include a substantial pay increase for the governor, who will end up making a quarter million dollars a year by 2021.


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