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Regional lawmakers explain their votes on New York Legislature pay raise

The New York state legislature has spent over $500,000 for legal counsel on redistricting. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)
Vaughn Golden
Southern Tier and Finger Lakes lawmakers took varying stances on legislation to raise their own pay at the end of last year.

Shortly before the end of 2022, legislators returned to Albany in a special session to consider a measure that would raise their salaries and institute some caps on the amount of income they’re allowed to collect outside their government job.

Democrats passed the legislation, albeit with a number of lawmakers defecting. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the legislation shortly before New Year’s Day. Legislators will now collect a $142,000 salary each year. Given that the Legislature is still only practically in session for about half the year, they will still be allowed to collect income outside their salary. But this will be capped at $35,000 with the exception of military pensions, retirement funds or investment revenue.

Lawmakers in the Southern Tier had conflicting votes and thoughts on the measure.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo

Democratic Broome County Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo was on a previously planned family vacation outside the country at the time the special session was called and ended up missing the vote. She later explained to WSKG that she had several reservations with the measure that was ultimately approved and would have voted against it were she able to make it to Albany.

“I have a problem with every aspect of what occurred, the timing, the amount and also I think we needed a broader conversation about limiting outside income and what it meant for the part-time Legislature and the nature of the debate that we have on various issues,” Lupardo said.

She added that she thought the move to increase pay was out of touch with voters, especially following several losses and tight races by Democrats in the 2022 midterm election.

"The voters were very clear in their messaging to many of us that they feel that we're out of touch with the needs of regular voters and regular New Yorkers. So, I think the timing and certainly the amount is problematic,” Lupardo said.

The legislation passed the Assembly 84-47.

Assemblymember Anna Kelles

Tompkins and Cortland counties Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Kelles supported the legislation, but said she did so mostly because of the cap on outside income.

“The most important aspect of the salary vote was the strict limitation on outside income,” Kelles wrote in a statement to WSKG. “The vote aligned with what many state and national organizations acknowledge, that in New York a state legislative position is a full-time job. We should be focused fully on representing our constituents and our work should not be impacted by conflicts of interest.”

Sen. Tom O’Mara

Republican Southern Tier and Finger Lakes state Senator Tom O’Mara joined 22 others in his chamber voting against the legislation. He criticized the move as out of touch on behalf of Democratic lawmakers.

“One-party, all-Democrat rule has been a disaster for everyday New Yorkers. It’s out of control and it’s about to go from bad to worse in the new year.”

The Albany Times Union reported last month that O’Mara’s financial disclosures show him as possibly being impacted by the cap on outside income. O’Mara is a partner at the law firm Barclay Damon.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.