Republican Sen. Tom O’Mara was granted the approval by the state Board of Elections to use campaign funds when challenging the ruling of a special compensation board for legislative pay, he announced Sunday.
“I appreciate the Board’s prompt, timely, and positive response to my request and look forward to taking this opinion into account as I continue to consider a legal challenge against the Compensation Committee’s actions, which I believe clearly violate the intent of the authorizing legislation,” O’Mara said in the statement.
The compensation panel last month granted the first legislative pay increase in 20 years, hiking the base pay for lawmakers from $79,500 to eventually reach $130,000 in the coming years. The first pay hike took effect this month, raising lawmakers’ annual salary to $110,000.
But the pay panel also capped the amount of money lawmakers can earn outside of the Legislature and ended the use of stipends for leadership posts for all but a handful of top legislators.
O’Mara, like other lawmakers, has argued the panel’s purview was limited to legislative salary, not outside pay or the question of stipends, known as “lulus” in Albany parlance.
O’Mara draws outside income as an attorney in private practice at Barclay Damon.
“The significant changes made by the Compensation Committee to the Legislature’s structure and makeup were not contemplated by the authorizing legislation,” the firm said in a statement. “Alterations to the part-time Legislature as established in our New York State Constitution can and should only be made by a Constitutional Amendment put forth in a referendum to the voters.”
There is already a legal challenge to the pay committee’s report from a fiscally conservative group based in Albany.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he believes the pay panel’s ruling will ultimately be upheld.
Alphonso David, a top administration counsel, has argued the pay panel law had no “severability” clause included, essentially that if one portion of the law is struck down, the entire statute could be tossed out.
“The comments that they’re making suggesting outside of their scope can be used as evidence in the case,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “It could result in the entire law being stricken.”