Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer doesn’t support a pay raise for the state Legislature. And if fellow lawmakers want to make more money, they should try to find a second job in the private sector, he said.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, said about the speculation of a pay hike for the state Legislature this year. “It’s not appropriate to be talking about them, to be voting for them, to be having them. Look, these are tough economic times, and it’s something that should not even be considered.”
Ranzenhofer said in the telephone interview yesterday with Gannett’s Albany Bureau that lawmakers could benefit from outside employment, not only for the money but to get a better understanding of the private sector. He’s a lawyer.
“If it’s not an adequate sum of money, then I would suggest that people have other jobs,” he said. “It’s very helpful, number one, you can earn more money, but more importantly to really connect with workers and business people to see what they go through on a day-to-day basis. So I don’t really think there is an argument to be made to increase the pay.”
The state Legislature is, according to the state Constitution, a part-time job, Ranzenhofer noted. He said there’s no problem with lawmakers having outside income so long as it doesn’t conflict with their legislative duties.
About one third of the 212-member Legislature has no outside income.
“Right now, the constitution makes it part time. That’s the way it was designed. It was designed so that you should not be solely dependent on the government for your income,” he explained. “And there’s a difference between having outside employment and having a conflict of interest. There’s no conflict of interest in having outside employment. There’s a problem if you have a conflict of interest. So you should have employment that does not present a conflict of interest.”
The state Legislature hasn’t had a pay increase since 1999. The base pay is $79,500, but most lawmakers receive stipends for leadership positions that range from $9,000 to $41,500.
Some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, have been clamoring for a pay increase this year. Lawmakers, if they do it, would come back after the November elections and vote themselves an increase. They would have to do it this year for the Legislature that is seated in January because a current Legislature can’t vote itself a pay raise.
But the sides haven’t indicated they have a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who hasn’t said whether he would support a pay increase but at the same time has pointed out that agency commissioners haven’t had one since 1999 as well.