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Pay raise for state lawmakers gains support from Governor Hochul

If state lawmakers want a bump in pay next year, a special session of the legislature would need to be called before the end of the year. Is that the plan?

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Friday afternoon Gov. Kathy Hochul gave her support to the state legislature if they decided to give themselves a pay raise before the end of the year. 

"I believe they deserve a pay raise, they work extremely hard it's a year around job," Governor Hochul said. "I've been many times in their districts and they work very hard and they deserve it."

Governor Hochul, however, is not the one who makes that decision. 

"It is up to them if they want to come back and make that effective," Gov. Hochul said. 

This comment from the governor stems from a question asked to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Thursday. Heastie was asked if a special session would be called so lawmakers could vote to give themselves a salary increase. 

Heastie told reporters, including Gothamist reporter Jon Campbell, that he didn't "think there's enough money in the world that could compensate you for being away from your families."

Heastie clarified his remarks. 

"At this moment, there’s no discussion about coming back at this moment,” Heastie said.  

As for the Western New York delegation of lawmakers, senators Tim Kennedy and minority leader Rob Ortt did not respond to a request for comment. 

Senators Sean Ryan and Patrick Gallivan had "no comment." 

Assembly majority leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes' office said the leader was returning to Buffalo from Albany, but didn't answer our question if she supported a special session. 

Assemblyman Bill Conrad's spokesperson said that Conrad met with assembly leadership on Wednesday and "at no point in conference was this special session discussed."

Senator George Borrello told 2 On Your Side that he heard mumblings about a potential special session. 

"I just don't see most of my colleagues wanting to vote yes on a pay raise," Borrello said. "That's why based on history, they haven't had the courage to do that. In the past."

The legislature didn't give itself a bump in pay between 1999 and 2018. In 2018, salaries jumped from $79,000 for Senators and $79,500 for Assembly members, to $110,000 collectively. 

At the the time, a special commission outlined yearly bumps in pay as part of their final report. 

But a lawsuit soon followed that decision because the state constitution says only the legislature can approve a pay raise, not a commission.

Why would the legislature rush to give itself a pay raise by the end of the year? 

"Because of the new legislative session that starts January 1, 2023, you're voting on a future legislature, not on the current legislature," Borrello said. 

The state constitution outlines that pay raises can only happen when a new two-year legislative term begins. With a new two-year term beginning January 2023, the legislature couldn't give itself a raise until 2025. 

"In order to have it take effect, for the members that will be starting in January 1, that [raise] would have to be voted on before the end of this year. 2022," Borrello said.

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