(The Center Square) - New York lawmakers could be receiving a 29 percent pay raise in the new year after passing a measure to give it to themselves.
If Governor Kathy Hochul signs the bill into law, then members of the state Assembly and Senate would begin receiving $142,000 annually effective January 1. Hochul, earlier this month, expressed support for the increase.
That would also make New York state legislators the highest paid in the country, earning more than twice what the average household earns in the state.
The Senate voted 33-23 to pass the bill just before 2:00 p.m Thursday. The Assembly followed suit with an 81-52 vote 90 minutes later.
The votes were largely on partisan lines, with Democrats largely supporting the measure and Republicans opposing it.
Under New York's constitution, lawmakers cannot vote for a pay raise that takes effect during their current term. Had they waited until after January 1 to pass it, the $32,000 hike wouldn't have occurred until 2025.
Still, GOP members objected to the timing of the move, not that it was just before Christmas, but rather it was coming while they said many New Yorkers were struggling economically. In addition, the state's gas tax holiday is set to expire at the end of the month.
"This is the worst time, the worst time, to tell our constituents, 'Empty your pockets. Tighten your belts even more,'" Senate Deputy Minority Leader Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, said during the debate.
Others objected to provisions that would cap outside income, which they said would prohibit people who own businesses or farms from being able to make more than $35,000. That provision, though, would not take effect until 2025, and the law would allow lawmakers to exceed that threshold for some exceptions.
Supporters of the raise claimed that serving their constituents has become a year-round, full-time position, and Lanza said that might bring a legal challenge to the pay raise.
"Yesterday, you needed to be a citizen," he said. "Yesterday, you needed to be of a certain age. Yesterday, you needed to be a resident of your district. And tomorrow, metaphorically, you're going to also need to be a person that does not have an outside job with a certain income, and that, to me, means that you're changing the qualification."
Up through 2018, New York lawmakers earned $79,500 per year, but Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, pointed out that before then, lawmakers had not had a raise in two decades.
Krueger also said she'd be willing to change the definition of state lawmakers' positions from part-time to full-time.
"I must be doing it very badly," she said sarcastically about her position. "It takes me 24/7 after 21 years. So, I do believe it is a full-time job for myself, and I don't have another job. Other people have figured out how to combine what they do in the legislature with outside income. My hat goes off to them because I just don't even understand. I sometimes don't get my laundry done for X number of weeks because I'm so busy."