Gov. Andrew Cuomo is right to demand that any pay raises require state legislators to work full time and accept a tight limit on outside income. It would be a fair trade if Assembly and Senate members want to return to Albany this month and approve an increase on their $79,500 base salaries, an annual pay set in 1999, and then agree to let go of the ability to earn significant money from other endeavors that create so much potential for conflict of interest. And making the job of running this enormous and complex state a full-time one is a necessity.
But some of the other items on Cuomo’s laundry list of demands shouldn’t be tied to pay increases. Some shouldn’t pass at all. And some seem to be included purely for show, even if they are worthy of consideration.
One measure Cuomo wants finalized, a memorandum of understanding on $2 billion already budgeted for supportive housing, doesn’t even require the legislature to be in session. Another, a proposal to resuscitate the expired 421a tax break for building affordable housing, doesn’t deserve to pass. As written, that plan gives far-too-generous 35-year tax exemptions to NYC real estate developers while providing far too little truly affordable housing for low- and middle-income people.
Cuomo’s other demands on complex, contentious issues need vetting. They include procurement oversight at CUNY and SUNY, a hate crimes task force, and disclosure and political contribution laws. Then there’s a constitutional amendment Cuomo wants to extend legislative terms from two years to four and to limit new legislators and elected statewide officials to eight years in office. It’s certainly an idea that deserves long discussion.
Cuomo believes that if legislators want to come back to Albany this month and vote themselves a raise, they ought to do the people’s business while they’re chalking up per diem allowances. But pretty much every issue he wants settled is a nonstarter with either Assembly Democrats or Senate Republicans. If they want to accept income limits and raise their pay, they should get moving. Otherwise, they ought to just stay home.