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How does the NY state legislature rank against the rest of the country?

Posted at: 01/07/2013 11:45 PM
Updated at: 01/07/2013 11:46 PM
By: Lynette Adams

Last week, News10NBC took a look at the number of days state lawmakers are expected to be in session and their annual salary. News10NBC then compared those findings to states around the country. Legislatures across the United States have very different make-ups. They vary in size, duties and schedules. For example the legislature in Texas and a dozen other states meet every other year.

Most states pay their lawmakers extra money when they're in session. In one state, making laws is a volunteer effort.
   
New York State legislators are the third highest paid lawmakers in the nation, receiving a base salary of $79,500. They come in behind California whose lawmakers just cut their own pay 5% to $90,525. Pennsylvania's lawmakers receive a base salary  of $80,026.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is Texas. It's lawmakers meet every other year for base salary of $7200. And New Mexico, its state lawmakers do the job for free.

So are New York State lawmakers overpaid in comparison to some other states?

Kent Gardner, Center for Governmental Research, said, "The question is, what's the goal? What we want is good governance."

News10NBC took that question to Kent Gardner. He is the chief economist and researcher with the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.

Gardner said, "If we pay more and we get better governance I think it's worthwhile...but I think the notion that we can cut their pay substantially and we're going to get citizen legislators who have other jobs. I think that's a little naive."

Gardner says often you get what you pay for and when comes to states, there really aren't any equal comparisons.

He said, "The State of New York is very complex state. It's a complex place politically and certainly in terms of breadth and depth of services that we offer, the kinds of challenges the state confronts in many different areas; it's a tough place to govern."

But what are taxpayers thinking? Again, News10NBC wanted to hear from you. One Greece resident thinks her state senator may be underpaid.

Greece resident Annette Powell said, "Sen. Joe Robach, just seeing him in the community. Seeing him all over the place. I think he goes above and beyond the call of duty. If you watch his character, he's at every event, he always there helping the people. So I think people like Joe, he's really an asset."

This Rochester resident says New York carries the burden of being a leader among other states.

Heidi Faro said, "Maybe legislators should be compensated for that level of responsibility but I also feel like they should put their money where their mouth is. If we pay you that much and you're only going to work a short amount of time, then I want to see a good amount of change. I want to see a better allocation of resources to the people who need it."

Gardner did say the issues state lawmakers confront, like Medicaid, are often very complicated and he says those issues deserve the attention of a full time legislature. He also pointed out that the salaries paid to state lawmakers are a very small percentage of the annual state budget.

Including New York State, only four states have full time legislatures. They include California, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Those states also have some of the highest paid lawmakers.