ALBANY — State Senate Democractic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins Thursday came out in support of a legislative pay raise while promising her chamber will take up a “gold-standard” bill to limit outside lawmaker income in the coming legislative session.
Stewart-Cousins, the Yonkers Democrat set to become Senate majority leader when the Dems take control of the chamber in January, released her statement hours before a panel considering whether to recommend the first legislative pay raise in 20 years was scheduled to meet for the last time.
“I recently discussed my views on salary increases with each of the legislative pay commission members, and I was clear that a raise for New York State legislators is appropriate following twenty years of no increases,” Stewart-Cousins said.
She added that her Democratic conference for years has pushed for ethics reforms—including limiting outside lawmaker income similar to how it’s done in Congress—only to face staunch Republican opposition.
“Now that we will be in the majority, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I continue to support that legislation and expect to secure its passage in the upcoming Legislative Session,” she said of a bill limiting outside income to no more than 15 percent of a lawmaker’s $79,500 base salary.
Stewart-Cousins also vowed that “we will also continue to advance other crucial reforms.”
She did not specify what those might be.
Government reform groups are looking to reduce or eliminate stipends paid to lawmakers who chair committees, serve as minority ranking members, and hold leadership posts.
Stewart-Cousins did not testify at any of the two public hearings held by the pay raise commission made up of state and city Controllers Thomas DiNapoli and Scott Stringer and former state and city Controllers Carl McCall and Bill Thompson.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did. While he argued in favor of a pay raise, he would not commit to passing any reforms, saying only that his Democratic conference would consider changes.
He has since said he believes it is illegal to promise reforms for a pay raise.
In addition to potentially raising pay for lawmakers, the commission are considering whether to boost the salaries of statewide elected officials like the governor and state agency commissioners.