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North Country state lawmakers scoff at raises

February 1, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The three state lawmakers from the Tri-Lakes region say the idea of increasing pay for Legislature members is laughable.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver floated the idea last week. He noted that members of both the Senate and Assembly haven't received a pay increase since 1999. Each lawmaker gets a base salary of $79,500, although some receive additional stipends for leadership posts.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, laughed when the Enterprise asked if she would support raises for lawmakers.

"Talk about timing being wrong," she said. "I absolutely do not believe there should be a pay raise at this time. The governor just received concessions from CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) and PEF (Public Employees Federation) workers and other unions, and some of them aren't finalized yet, but we're not giving any raises for years. It's certainly not the time to step in and say we're going to give legislators a raise."

But Duprey did defend lawmakers from criticism that they only work when they're in session. She said most of her colleagues put in countless hours in their home districts, meeting with community leaders, attending events and talking to constituents.

Duprey said that for close to 50 percent of Assembly members, their job in Albany is full-time.

"I didn't run because of the salary," she added.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward also scoffed at the notion of raising pay for the Legislature. The Republican from Willsboro said the stipend is enough for lawmakers from rural districts, although it might fall short for those that live in metropolitan areas. She said $79,000 for a lawmaker in Manhattan, with a family to support, is practically bare bones.

"But quite frankly, set that all aside, I don't think we've earned it," Sayward said. "Until last year and this year, I don't feel like we have really been doing what needs to be done to get New York back on track. I think that the general public wouldn't think that a year-and-a-half constitutes enough good faith effort that we should have a raise. I would vote against it."

State Sen. Betty Little does not support raises either, according to her spokesman Dan Mac Entee.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he wouldn't support raises now but believes they need to be addressed in the years to come.



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