Regardless of what side of the fence we each fall on when it comes to New York state politics, many would agree that the role of a state legislator is one that requires an extensive time commitment.
Not only must elected officials protect the interests of those who voted them in by traveling weekly to the state capital, but they must also take on colossal duties like balancing a $136 billion budget.
Apart from our personal opinions about individual legislators and how they choose to spend their time in office, it is unfair to argue that this commitment does not constitute a full-time occupation. In fact, what would be the reasoning in providing these individuals with such important duties if we are not willing to acknowledge the full-time requirements they necessitate?
State legislators here in New York currently make a salary of $79,500. With that said, these individuals often split their time by working as attorneys or in other professional fields in order to increase their annual income.
In the past, many have argued that because state legislators are capable of maintaining two forms of income there is no need to increase their earnings as lawmakers. This line of reasoning points to the flaw in our current payment plan. The splitting of time means the splitting of responsibilities.
In forcing state legislators to prioritize between two positions they may equally need in order to provide for their families, we are willingly allowing major priorities to involuntarily take a backseat.
If state legislators were to be granted a pay raise that would allow for the full-time commitment that is already necessary for effective lawmaking to exist, New Yorkers could rest assured that the problem of time management would be far less menacing. This may aid in further productivity in Albany and a better New York state for the future.
Also, we must remember that with second jobs comes the appearance of a conflict of interest. Though this is not the case for all state legislators, both unintentional and mindful decisions are made when other interests are at stake. This too would be eliminated should a choice be made to provide legislators with adequate full-time salaries.
Those individuals currently employed as New York City councilmembers are provided with a salary of $112,500, as well as the consideration that their position is full time. With the highest level of respect to city council-members, pay equity between those working for New York City and those working as state legislators does not exist.
Which poses another problem: Why work for the state if you can make a much higher salary working for the city? Both positions require that individuals work in similar districts. However, one must travel to Albany weekly while the other stays local.
Ultimately, we as New Yorkers want all public service positions to be filled by quality individuals – those focusing on the best interests of our community. If we want quality, however, we must provide the proper incentives and benefits.
Everyone is faced with financial responsibilities that undoubtedly become factors in the roles we choose to fill and the jobs we are able to perform.
If the goal is to maintain quality here in New York we should encourage the efforts of lawmakers and the necessity of their positions. This would result in more competitive races between worthy candidates all equally committed to the sole priority of making New York the best it can be.