New York State Exposed: NYS lawmakers are third highest paid in the country and now they want a raise? So how much do they make?

Posted at: 04/21/2014 6:53 AM
Updated at: 04/21/2014 6:50 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

When's the last time you got a raise? For the men and women we elect to the state legislature, it's been 15 years.  

Now, the rumor going around the state is that some of them want to vote for a pay raise and do it after the November election. So we think you ought to know how much they make right now, including all the money on top of their salaries.  

This is why we're on our New York State Exposed Campaign and Monday, we are exposing our lawmakers' perks of the job. 

There are all kinds of people who get paid extra for extra work. They enjoy certain financial benefits to their job, but they don't get paid by your tax money.

Your state lawmakers do. 

150 State Assemblymen and women and 63 Senators all make more than $79,000 a year. That's $15,000 above the median salary in Monroe County, more than $20,000 above the state average and that doesn't include the extra money they get. 

Consider this.

The gas and the mileage they use to get to Albany and back home? They write that off. 

Every single state lawmaker gets a $171 daily allowance when they're in Albany. It's called a per diem. It's $61 for food and $111 for housing. 

Sen. Ted O'Brien, (D) 55th Senate District: "I stay at the Ramada on Watervliet Road."

A lot of lawmakers like Senator Ted O'Brien stay at hotels while in session and the rules say -- what they don't spend on housing and food they can keep -- tax free. 

Sen. Ted O'Brien: "I try to be very careful about use of the per diems. I just go down, if we start in session on a Monday, I drive down Monday morning. I don't go down Sunday night because I can get there if I get up early and go."

But lawmakers get more than their salary and per diems. They get extra pay for special assignments. 

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle of Irondequoit gets another $34,000 a year. 

Assembly Minority Leader, Republican Brian Kolb of Canandaigua, gets the same bonus.

If you're the ranking member of a committee, like Senator O'Brien or Fairport Assemblyman Mark Johns, you get another $9,000 a year. 

Assemblyman Mark Johns, (R) Fairport: "I get paid $88,000 a year for what I do and I consider that pretty good pay considering that they are part time jobs even though, as I say, I work it as a full time job."

The chairman of a committee, like Republican Senator Joe Robach, gets another $15,000 a year. 

Sen. Joe Robach, (R) 56th Senate District: "Certainly I'm getting paid enough where I've been able to educate and support my family and now I just want to do the job."

So how does this compare to people who do the same job in other states?

Lawmakers in Massachusetts make $61,000 a year. Their per diem is $10 to $100 a day depending on how far they live from the capital. 

New Jersey's lawmaker salary is $49,000 a year with no per diem. 

In Pennsylvania, they get $82,000 a year with a $159 daily allowance. 

California lawmakers get paid $95,000 a year and extra $141 a day in session. The difference is the California legislature is considered full time. 

The job in New York is part time. 

Click here to compare state lawmaker pay and perks in all 50 states

Tim Hoefer, Empire Center: "I'm a taxpayer and I'm frustrated. I imagine most are as frustrated as I am."

Tim Hoefer is the executive director of the Empire Center in New York, a taxpayer watchdog. Hoefer doesn't object to the fact that state lawmakers get extra pay for extra work, but he says the job should be full time. 

Tim Hoefer, Empire Center: "If we're going to be paying these guys $100,000 then they should be working for the taxpayers full time and that should be the only thing they do."

But ask any of our local lawmakers and they'll tell you they do the job full-time and for most it's their only source of income. 

Sen. Ted O'Brien: "We work hard and it represents a lot of time away from my young family and so I think for me, it's been reasonable."

Sen. Joe Robach: "As a matter of fact I think it's such an honor and privilege to have the job that I think you owe full time work."

The perks continue

State lawmakers in New York also get free dental and the state pays 90 percent of their health insurance premiums. State lawmakers also get a pension after 20 years of service. 

The Last Pay Raise

The last time the issue of a raise came up was 2008. Eliot Spitzer was governor. According to the New York Times, Speaker Sheldon Silver was asking for a 20 percent raise. The bill was not passed. 

We asked just about every local state lawmaker where they stand on the issue of a pay raise and all said they would vote against it.