Lawmakers are headed to Albany today to vote themselves a raise that would make them the best-paid legislators in the nation.
Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll find out why the State Senate and the Assembly will convene today in an unusual special session. We’ll also look at why some New Yorkers say race shapes the criticism of Mayor Eric Adams.
State lawmakers are gathering in Albany today to give themselves a raise. If only a salary bump were that easy for everyone. The bill before the lawmakers, who already get six-figure base salaries for a five-month scheduled session in Albany, would boost their pay to roughly twice the median family income in the United States and slightly more than five times what lawmakers in neighboring Connecticut make. I asked my colleague Jesse McKinley for details.
How are lawmakers in New York paid in comparison with other state legislators?
Pretty darn well. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New York lawmakers rank No. 2 in the nation in base pay, thanks to a raise they received in 2018. California, which has a habit of besting New York in all kinds of categories (population, economic output, number of professional baseball teams) is No. 1 for the moment.
Won’t this make lawmakers in New York the best-compensated in the nation?
Yes, with Thursday’s anticipated pay hike, Albany’s 213 lawmakers will now have the highest base salary of any in the country: $142,000 a year, from the current $110,000 a year. State lawmakers in California will still be taking home $119,702 a year.
What’s the catch?
The concession made by lawmakers to get that $32,000 raise is that they will agree to a $35,000 cap on outside income, something that good government groups have long pushed for (though some would like an even lower threshold for such nongovernment earning).
The concern is the potential for corruption and conflicts of interest that could arise from, say, working in a law firm. Legislative leaders say this is a big step toward wiping out Albany’s well-deserved reputation for money-driven malfeasance. But the $35,000 limit won’t take effect until 2025, unlike the raise, which will take effect on Jan. 1.
Why did they go back to Albany for one day just to give themselves a raise?
Albany loves leaving things till the last minute, including its budgets, which used to be chronically late and now are only periodically late.
The more germane answer, however, is that the bill authorizing the raise has to be approved before the new session of the Legislature begins in January. Lawmakers cannot vote themselves a raise that takes effect during the same session as the vote. It says so in the state Constitution. Obviously time is running out between now and January — hence, a lot of people descending on the capital for a one-day-only session.
Will Gov. Kathy Hochul sign the bill raising their compensation? What happens if she decides not to sign it?
The governor hasn’t explicitly said she’ll sign the bill to hike the lawmakers’ pay, but she’s expressed support for such an increase in the past. Also, it seems unlikely to me that the legislators would go all the way back to Albany without an implicit understanding that Hochul — a Democrat, like the leaders that control both houses of the Legislature — is cool with higher salaries.
If she decided not to sign the bill, my best guess is that she would get very few Christmas presents from legislative leaders this year.
What has the reaction been?
Giving yourself a raise is always a bad look for politicians, even if many outside groups agree that it’s not unjustified. Republicans have lambasted the raise — and its timing during a “special session” — and some watchdog groups have said it doesn’t go far enough to limit outside earning.
But legislative leaders stand by it, including the speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie. “I don’t think there’s enough money in the world,” he said recently, “that could compensate you for being away from your families.”
Prepare for wind gusts and rain persisting through the evening. Temps will be steady around the low to mid-50s.
In effect until Dec. 26.
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Race and criticism of the mayor
The end of the year is in sight — the end of Mayor Eric Adams’s first year in office. It has been a difficult 12 months in which he faced the challenges of moving the city past the pandemic, reinvigorating a weakened economy and tempering heightened fears of crime.
Some New Yorkers have questioned whether he moved fast enough to address intractable problems like homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. Complaints have also focused on his hiring practices, his response to the crisis at the Rikers Island jail complex and how he handled the influx of migrants from Texas.
But my colleagues Jeffery C. Mays and Emma G. Fitzsimmons write that several Black leaders are raising concerns that criticism of the mayor has been shaped by race. They suggest that implicit racism undermined Mayor David Dinkins, the city’s first Black mayor, a generation ago, and could undercut Adams now.
Adams himself said that he was accustomed to criticism, but that when some people “look at these two Black mayors, Dinkins and my role now, there are those that wish we fail.”
“Look at all the mayors,” he said. “Dinkins and I are the only two mayors that people talk about how we went out at night. They used to say he had a tuxedo in his car all the time because he went out to different galas and balls and what have you. That’s the role of the mayor.”
Adams’s allies may be hoping to discourage criticism at a time when his popularity appears to be waning: In a recent Siena College poll, 50 percent of voters in the city viewed him favorably and 35 percent unfavorably.
Adams, a former police captain, has sought to have a better relationship with the police than Dinkins did: He brought back a controversial plainclothes police unit. He has also dispatched waves of officers to address crime on the subway and protected police funding in his budget while often standing by officers accused of misconduct.
Adams said he had drawn two lessons from Dinkins’s loss to Rudolph Giuliani in 1993: Focus on making “real changes in office” and do not allow your political coalition to erode. He has made sure that his base feels heard after winning the mayoralty with a coalition of Black and Latino voters and moderates outside Manhattan.
“My secret sauce is everyday working-class families,” he said, adding that he had met some of those families on a recent visit to the Rockaways in Queens. “They’re just not complicated. They just want a safe place to raise their children and families. Those are my folks.”
Rock, rock, rock
“Rock, rock, rock,” I heard a voice repeating. “Rock, rock, rock.”
I was walking up a trail into the Ramble in Central Park when I came upon the voice’s owner: a tall, slender man with a twist of silver hair over one eye.
I waited, not wanting to interrupt whatever it was that he was doing.
“Rock, rock, rock,” he said again in a monotone. “Rock, rock, rock.”
Two minutes later, a red cardinal flew down from a tree, landed on a large flat rock and did the hokey pokey, hopping tentatively toward the middle of the rock.
That was when I noticed a single peanut in the shell sitting there. The cardinal grappled with how to lift the nut. After finally securing it, the bird flew off.
The man turned to me.
“The wife is much smarter,” he said in a serious tone. “I’ve known the family for years. I never have to wait when she’s around.”
— Sharyn Wolf
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Morgan Malget and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team email@example.com.
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Source: Elections - nytimes.com