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Judge tosses outside income limit for New York lawmakers


Members of the New York state Assembly are pictured in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol, Wednesday, May 22 in Albany, N.Y. (Hans Pennink/AP)

ALBANY — New York lawmakers don’t have to give up their side hustle.

A state judge on Thursday struck down a soon-to-take-effect cap on state lawmakers’ outside income.

Albany Supreme Court Justice Richard Platkin ruled that the compensation committee empaneled by Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders last year exceeded its power by linking pay hikes to income restrictions.

Legislators are still in for salary increases set to take effect over the next two years.

The base pay for members of the Senate and Assembly jumped from $79,500 to $110,000 this year, and is slated to increase by $10,000 next year and reach $130,000 in 2021.

The pay commission tied the raises to a limit on outside income barring lawmakers from earning money in the private sector in excess of 15% of their legislative salary. The Legislature is only in session from January through June.

Lawyers for the Republican lawmakers who filed the suit, one of three challenging the cap, argued that the temporary panel overstepped its authority by placing the cap on outside compensation.

Platkin agreed, determining that anything the commission recommended beyond the salary hike was just that — a recommendation.

“All of the Committee’s other recommendations are just that – recommendations advanced for the consideration of policymakers, but not the law of the State of New York,” he wrote in his decision.

A judge in a separate lawsuit seeking to nullify the committee’s decision, pay hike and all, struck down the cap as well as future pay increases scheduled for legislators.

Both decisions are expected to be appealed.

The ceiling placed on outside income, meant to curb corruption and conflicts of interest and set to take effect at the end of the year, was applauded by good government groups and reviled by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

In June, a pair of Democratic Assembly members, Phil Steck (D-Colonie) and John McDonald (D-Cohoes), filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the cap.