In a controversial move, New York lawmakers recently approved a significant pay raise of $32,000 for themselves, making them the highest-paid state legislators in the country. However, this raise came with a condition: a cap on outside income. Now, the GOP is gearing up for a legal battle to stop the pending increase.
Not all lawmakers were in favor of a pay increase and income cap. Under the new rules, lawmakers would be limited to earning no more than $35,000 from jobs outside of their state offices. Which is causing a huge problem for lawmakers raking in the big bucks.
Republican lawmakers who voted against the raise and cap have now filed a lawsuit arguing that it violates both federal and state constitutions. If successful, their case would preserve the raises for all legislators but remove the limit on additional earnings, which was set to take effect in 2025.
The Democrat & Chronicle reported the lawsuit was filed on behalf of 13 plaintiffs, including 10 Republican senators and Assembly members, one potential candidate, and two citizens. They argue that the cap on outside pay infringes on their constitutional rights and sets a new qualification for lawmakers that is unfair and unnecessary.
Reports state Republicans believe the income cap “unconstitutionally deprives members of the Legislature who do not comply with the limit on outside income of their salaries” and also “deprives Plaintiffs of their property interests, namely their legislative salaries and outside income, by imposing restrictions on their businesses and outside income.”
According to Spectrum News, spokesman for the state Senate Democrats Mike Murphy isn’t pleased with the legal challenge, pointing to the Republican former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was imprisoned following a corruption conviction.
“It is disturbing that Republicans want to return to the old Albany ways of their corrupt leader Dean Skelos,” Murphy said. “These reforms helped clean up Albany.”
A spokesman for the Assembly Democratic Conference declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
Advocacy groups have long pushed for limits on lawmakers’ outside income to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that they are fully dedicated to their public duties. New York Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Blair Horner believes income caps are necessary. Horner stated, “That creates a conflict and we believe that no lawmaker, no elected official in New York state, should be serving two masters. Then one way to ensure that they’re only serving one — the public that they’re designed to serve — is by limiting outside income.” However, critics argue that the cap is too restrictive and unfairly penalizes lawmakers who have successful careers outside of politics.
It remains to be seen how the courts will rule on this case and what the implications will be for New York lawmakers. In the meantime, the debate over legislative pay and outside income continues, with advocates calling for clearer rules and lawmakers defending their right to earn income outside of their state offices will continue to be a hot button topic.