Court Battles Continue Over Legislators’ Outside Income

How much should members of the New York State Legislature be paid? Should they be allowed to hold other positions, or should their outside income be limited? Who should decide?

These questions have been discussed in Albany for many years. Recently, they have been discussed in court, too.

After lawmakers (unwisely) created a Compensation Committee to make decisions on legislative pay raises, the Commission decided last December that lawmakers should receive a huge pay raise that would make them the highest-paid state legislators in the nation. However, the Committee added that most stipends for leadership positions should be eliminated. More importantly, the Committee decided that legislators should be barred from earning outside income that exceeds 15% of their legislative salaries.

For legislators who do not hold outside employment (or who do part-time work that does not bring them over the 15% threshold), the outside income limitation does not pose a problem. However, if the Committee’s decisions are upheld, legislators who hold professional jobs or who own their own businesses will have to either quit their outside jobs or resign from office.

Discontent over the Committee’s work has led to the filing of three separate lawsuits. Some lawmakers have predicted that if the Committee’s decisions hold up in court, many lawmakers could resign.

At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we believe that the Committee overreached in setting an outside income limit. However, we also believe that the Legislature never should have created the Committee in the first place.