When working in the private sector pay raises are contingent on one of or a combination of 3 things: The merit and successes of the individual, the current and projected health of the organization, and the health of the overall economy.
Because of the final factor (and its contributions to the second), annual raises of any measurable size have become something of a rarity since the days of the Great Recession. Nationally, wages are expected to rise by 3.1% in 2019, the highest rate since 2008.
Despite the working class consistently struggling to secure wage growth, the political class thinks they are free of such encumbrances. It has been the buzz in Albany, yet again, that state legislators are looking for a raise. They currently make a base salary of $79,500 and want to take it up to as much $100,000 -- never mind that their real wage is already well above that mark after taking into consideration committee bonuses and the $174 per diem benefit for when they are in Albany. And, on top of that, they can retire with mighty fine pensions.
When you consider the 3 factors behind raises, our senators and assemblyman aren’t deserving of a $20,500 raise, let alone one of $2,465 (which is what it would be were they to see just 3.1% like their constituents).
Let’s first consider the merits of in the individual. $79,500 is a rather exorbitant sum to be paying a part-timer. These positions were devised to offer regular people a chance to contribute to the social, economic, and legal development of the Empire State by having sessions for 6 calendar months per year and during those sessions mandating 0 to 4 days per week in the state capital (the legislative calendar showed only 61 in-session/budget days for the year). When the 6 months were up or when the legislature wasn’t in session during the week, the legislators could go back to their “real jobs” on the farm, in their offices and plants, or at home raising their families.
Sadly, the system been mutilated so much that people are led to believe that being a legislator is a full-time, year-round job equipped with regional offices and full-time staffs. Realistically, under such circumstances, one could look at the second half of the year as being nothing more than politics, rather than policy, a means to perpetuate incumbency through alleged necessity and importance. Really, what does attendance at parades and dinners contribute to the overall welfare of our state?
So, we need to look at the seats for what they are and what they should be – part-time, supplementary gigs - and realize that we cannot permit their income growth.
Now, let’s look at the organization through which they are employed. The state government headed into a budget gap of $4.4 billion this year, which the Governor and Legislature filled at the last minute by adding a bevy of revenue generators (taxes). This gap which followed a budget year with a deficit that was projected to be $3.5 billion but was actually closer to twice that. Deficits are the normal way of business in Albany. If the fiscal health of the state is directly attributable to their budgets, the laws that they introduce, and the tough-but-necessary cuts they are afraid to make, then how do the legislators deem themselves worthy of reward? If anyone ran a company like they run a state, that individual would be among the ranks of the unemployed, either through termination or the likely total collapse of their firm.
And, it’s that factor that leads to the last: the overall health of the economy. Every bill among the hundreds passed every year by the legislature either steals rights and freedoms or adds to the cost of living and doing business in New York State. Because of that, existing businesses (not the new ones which are granted special favor and public charity like Amazon or Solar City) face incomprehensible government-created financial burdens when compared against their competitors from other states. That has forced businesses to stagnate/downsize/close/leave, which in turn has caused the same to happen to our residents, young and old alike: In the period from 2011 to 2016, another 850,000 people left New York State for greener pastures.
It’s that final factor of assessing job performance that is the most damning to our legislators. They are complicit in the destruction of the once accurately-named “Empire State”. They’ve driven our government to ruin, which has done the same to our economy and to each and every one of trying to work and live in it.
Only politicians would think they deserve bigger paychecks for that.
From the 26 November 2018 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News