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Opinion: Being a state legislator is nice work if you can get it

BY LARRY PENNER | Don’t shed any tears for the how much your state senator or assemblymember will now earn.

State employees earn between $28,000 to $102,500, averaging $54,500. They have to show up for work full time, year-round. No time to hold down a second job.

Contrast this with the recent pay raise of $32,000 for members of the New York State Legislature. This raised their annual base pay from $110,000 to $142,000. Adding insult to injury, they earn double or more than what the average constituent does while only doing a part-time job. The Legislature was only in session 62 days last year, between Jan. 5 and June 4. They found the time to return for one day, voting themselves a pay raise. No time to deal with modifications to recent bail reform laws, which have had an impact in growing crime.

They also have day-to-day meal accounts, along with reimbursement for overnight hotel, travel to and from Albany and other perks ordinary citizens can only dream about. When legislative sessions take place, they run Tuesday to Thursday. Most weeks Albany is closed. This affords many the opportunity to hold down a second, part-time job practicing law or some other profession.

There is no draft forcing legislators to serve. Members voluntarily ran for public office fully aware of the hours and perks. If they don’t like the compensation, resign today. Try working for a living like your constituents do. There are millions of New Yorkers who are just as qualified and would love to hold your office.

Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2, serving New York and New Jersey.

3 Comments

  1. T Hommel T Hommel January 14, 2023

    Being a legislator is a full-time, 7-day-per-week job for some of them. They serve constituents in many ways and try to resolve constituents’ problems with other parts of the government. They show up in person to speak at the organizations in their district, and at political clubs to give reports about what is going on in the Legislature. They see constituents who come to speak with them in their local offices when they are not in Albany. So this article makes it seem like they only work when the are in Albany, which might be true for some, but not for most as far as I can tell.

  2. Kathleen Treat Kathleen Treat January 14, 2023

    Well said, T. Hommel! The West Side is fortunate to have dedicated legislators who do not work ‘part time’! If you are aware of slackers, spread the word so that constituents can vote differently next election.
    Please don’t tar everyone in Albany with the same brush.

  3. LES3025 LES3025 January 16, 2023

    This is a bad take. Raising legislators’ pay is good because it reduces the risk of corruption and makes it so people who aren’t already wealthy are incentivized to serve. The law will also cap legislators’ outside income, which is a good development.

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