Cuomo dangles pay raise at lawmakers for special session

Dec 1, 2016

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressuring state lawmakers to come back in December for a special session that includes a number of reform items to address recent corruption scandals. In exchange, he said, they could potentially be rewarded with a pay raise.

Cuomo is trying to convince state lawmakers to return to the capital before the end of the year to hold a special session. The governor is seeking some reforms, including changes to the state’s procurement process for contracts, saying he wants a “tighter system.”

The governor said the special session also could lead to a long-awaited pay raise for lawmakers. Cuomo has been arguing with the Legislature on whether a special pay raise commission needs to be reauthorized in order for it to vote on a possible salary increase for the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office before the end of the year.

Cuomo said if the legislature believes that a reauthorization vote is needed, then lawmakers should return and do that. 

Credit WBFO News File Photo

“I’m saying to the legislature, 'That’s great,’” said Cuomo. “What’s even better is if you do the people’s business when you come back.”  

The pay commission was supposed to act independently of politics, but when it met shortly after elections, commissioners appointed by Cuomo refused to vote on a pay raise proposal.

Commissioners did say, though, that they would back a “modest” salary increase sometime in the future if the Legislature decides to remain a part-time body and a “substantially higher” increase if lawmakers change their status to full time and adopt strict limits on outside income.

Cuomo has been pushing for that change. Both former leaders of the legislature are awaiting prison sentences on corruption convictions involving their outside income.

Cuomo said his agenda for a special session also includes freeing up money to build more housing for the homeless and extending the state’s human rights law to protect more people against hate crimes.

A spokesman for the state Assembly downplayed the likelihood of a special session, Tweeting that the governor and lawmakers “haven’t discussed any of that,” but Speaker Carl Heastie’s spokesman Mike Whyland said Assembly Democrats are “always willing” to talk about “issues important to New Yorkers.”

As far as trading a pay raise for any piece of legislation, he said, "That is wildly inappropriate and I cannot be any clearer on this subject."

Later in the day, a statement from Cuomo’s office said that the governor and legislative leaders are discussing issues that could be considered in a special session.