A cap on outside income for members of the state Legislature needs to go further than the provisions proposed in a broader bill to raise legislative pay to $142,000 a year, good-government organizations on Tuesday said.
State lawmakers plan to meet Thursday at noon to raise their salary from the base pay of $110,000 while also limiting the money they earn outside of their jobs as elected officials to $35,000.
The planned pay raise has stirred discontent among critics and calls for additional measures to be taken up in the year-end legislative session (the bill is being voted on this week, rather than the start of the new session of the Legislature, so the pay raise can take effect for the incoming class of lawmakers).
A pay raise coupled with a cap on outside pay had been expected and pushed for as a compromise as lawmakers plan to make themselves the highest-paid state Legislature in the nation.
New York's good-government and ethics watchdogs, including Reinvent Albany, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Citizens Union, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, believe the limits do not go far enough when it comes to limiting potential influence.
"Unfortunately, the bill does not prohibit outside income from entities where the legislator would have a fiduciary responsibility to a client," the groups said in a joint statement.
Outside pay has long been controversial in Albany. Watchdogs have argued lawmakers can be beholden to private interests like law firms that have business before the state.
Lawmakers have argued that retaining private-sector experience is key for a citizen-run Legislature. Members of the Legislature in the recent past have come from varying walks of life, including funeral home directors, dentists, farmers and pharmacists.
At the same time, lawmakers have grumbled at the ability of governors — including most recently former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — to earn money on controversial book deals.
But advocates want more teeth for outside income limits, including a 15% cap on outside pay, similar to the one in place for members of the U.S. Congress. They are also calling for a ban on outside pay from enrollment in which a lawmaker has a fiduciary relationship with a client or employer.
And they want to eliminate stipends for legislative work as well as put an end to a family business exception. Instead of taking effect two years after the raise, the pay limits should be put into effect at the same time, the groups said.
There will also be exceptions for state lawmakers to still earn money from investments as well as retirement income.