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Reforming NYS by looking at political salaries

Reform.It has become the go-to political buzzword at virtually every level. Whether it’s referring to a broken campaign finance system, as billions pour into campaigns each year across the country, or it’s determining the employment status of state legislators. Reform is the common thread.We have elected officials in Senate grossing an incredible amount of money, many of which are downstate. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Sen. Marc Panepinto, Sen. Philip Boyle, Sen. Thomas Croci, Sen. Kemp Hannon, and Sen. Kenneth LaValle. All of these individuals gross more than $75,000 per year, in addition to their state issued salary. Most of them gross significantly more than that — making anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 extra per year, according to disclosures.Sen. Michael Nozzolio also falls into this category, taking in between $150,000 and $250,000 in addition to his base salary, which like others in Senate is $79,500.Assembly sees a similar problem, with 14 Assemblymen and women grossing more than $75,000 per year in outside income. Again, a vast majority of the names on this list are downstate representatives, which reveals the scope of the problem there — but Assemblyman Gary Finch, reports enough outside income that puts him on this list as well.After Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos were both expelled from Assembly and Senate last year following corruption charges, the push to regulate the political space in terms of reform measures has been eager — but measured.It’s not hard to find support for reform measures, which would theoretically limit the corruption in government across the board among voters — but it’s an ill-conceived notion to think that legislators — whether they’re on the right or wrong side of this personally — will ever truly embrace reform.There are a number of reasons for this but none is more obvious than the political capital that could be spent, and lost, through reform measures. While some politicians have significant outside income, the risk of losing allies, numbers, or damaging their party’s reputation could be enough to prevent real change from taking place.Public service at one time was supposed to be about serving the people. While some may argue that fundamental changes have happened — many representatives, even those who see a lot of outside income – feel they still accomplish that.Let’s be clear: Legislators in New York live well-beyond the cusp of poverty, but that isn’t necessarily the case everywhere. In fact, the numbers show just how many states in the U.S. pay their state legislators significantly less than what their colleagues in New York earn.Here are the top-10 highest base pay rates for state legislators in the U.S., according to the National Conference of State Legislators:#1 – California: $97,197#2 – Pennsylvania: $85,338#3 – New York: $79,500#4 – Michigan: $71,685#5 – Illinois: $67,836#6 – Ohio: $60,584#7 – Massachusetts: $60,032#8 – Hawaii: $59,004#9 – Wisconsin: $50,950#10 – Alaska: $50,400As a reminder: These are base pay rates. In many states legislators have expense accounts, per day bonuses, and much more that adds on to the overall total. The top of the pay scale is high, but we doubt anyone would be surprised by that. What’s surprising is that there are 27 states in the U.S. that pay their legislators under $40,000 per year. Then there are around a dozen states that fall outside of the top-10 and make more than $40,000 per year. There are even a couple of states, like New Mexico for example, or even New Hampshire, which pay their elected officials nothing — or very close to nothing as a base salary.Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that reform needs to happen. What part of reform is truly necessary, though? Should we address the salaries, but not address the outside income? Should outside income be limited, but salaries be raised — or maintained.A poll last week revealed that most New Yorkers supported preventing legislators from receiving outside income. The same poll found that most were in agreeance with maintaining the current base salary that New York legislators receive if outside income were limited.If reform is going to happen, it would appear as though this is where the changes would start.

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