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Lawmaker pay raises combined with stipends ‘too much’ for some

The New York State Legislature’s recent decision to grant themselves a $32,000 pay raise, bringing their annual salaries to $142,000, has sparked controversy as it was revealed that some lawmakers are making even more, receiving five-figure leadership stipends on top of their increased salaries.

While 15 people are allowed to receive such stipends by law, it was previously agreed that these would be eliminated as part of a pay raise deal four years ago. However, the stipends remained in place for some lawmakers.

The Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority leader receive the highest stipends of $41.5, which they receive on top of their new $142,000 salaries, bringing their total yearly earnings to $183,500. This is nearly $10,000 more than a member of congress and $1,000 more than the national median salary for 25 to 34-year-olds, which stands at $40,352, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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The minority leader of each house receives a stipend of $34.5, bringing their total yearly earnings to $176.5.

While many lawmakers defended their extra cash, citing the extra work they do, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay stated that a stipend on top of $142,000 is too much.

Senator Liz Krueger, who is entitled to a $34,000 stipend, has declined to take it, stating that she does not want any part of her income to be tied to a position given to her by Senate leadership, to avoid any suggestion that she is beholden to leadership.

The pay raise has been met with criticism by some who argue that lawmakers should not be granting themselves pay raises while many New Yorkers continue to struggle financially, particularly amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, supporters of the pay raise argue that it is necessary to attract talented individuals to public service and ensure that the legislature is not dominated by wealthy individuals.