State Lawmakers To Take Extended, 18-Day Spring Break

11:02 PM, Apr 8, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- State lawmakers are taking an extended spring break on your dime.

After passing an on-time budget, our state leaders are rewarding themselves with even more time off from session starting next week. Apparently, the six months a year they already have off isn't enough.

State lawmakers are extending what already was a 13-day April break for Easter and Passover into an 18-day vacation, which will last until May.

The longer break from session comes even with legislation involving things like UB 2020, a property tax cap, and rent control still unfinished.

2 On Your Side asked Assemblyman Mark Schroeder (D-South Buffalo) and Senator George Maziarz (R-Newfane) about the protracted spring break.

REPORTER: There's important legislation that needs to get done. Isn't 13 days long enough?

SCHROEDER: Image-wise, image-wise, it was ridiculous to do this, image-wise... But I will tell you this: I like being in my district. I'm not going to Florida. I'm not going away anywhere during that period of time. I have things planned the in 11 neighborhoods I represent. I have community meetings, veterans meetings and senior citizens meetings.

That may be, but lawmakers are only in session from January to June for 63 days total.

Now, it's 61 days. Even though their leaders extended the break by five days, they're only cancelling two days of session.

Their base salary is about $80,000 annually, which works out to more than $1,200 for every day they're in session.

REPORTER: You guys only work in Albany, in session, for half of a year anyway. Why do you need an 18-day break?

MAZIARZ: Well, we probably don't. That was a decision made by legislative leaders. I thought it was mistake, I actually didn't mind. I was going to be at work anyway...

REPORTER: You are in the leadership.

MAZIARZ: It's the Easter-Passover break. But [it was decided] by leadership at a higher level than me I guess... Actually, it gives me an opportunity to be back in my district and I enjoy being there and meeting with local people actually more so than I enjoy being in the legislature with my colleagues, quite frankly.

REPORTER: But don't you think this is going to rub people the wrong way. They see this as a job that pays more than 80-thousand dollars a year without even the leadership stipends and you can't even stick around for half of the year?

MAZIARZ: It clearly doesn't send a very positive message, but it also doesn't mean people aren't going to be working either.

According to a study from the Empire Center, only two state legislatures in the entire country pay themselves more annually -- Michigan and California.

Only 12 states pay lawmakers more than $32,000 a year.

REPORTER: You guys are in sessions for less than half of the year, like 60 days. Do you really need to be taking time off during the middle of that?

SCHROEDER: Well, again, the time off in my particular case would be, and I'm only one person talking to you, I will not be taking time off. I will be in my district where I'm elected, and I will be doing the best I can.

SCHROEDER: So I will use my time wisely, but image-wise, I understand the question, and I understand the perception. And the people will say this is ridiculous. They ought to be in Albany doing their job, and they're not wrong.

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