Cuomo: Legislature Pay Hike, Other Deals Brewing

In this April 30, 2012 file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a New NY Education Reform Commission meeting in the Red Room at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that a likely postelection session in which the Legislature is expected to raise lawmakers’ pay must also increase the minimum wage.

On the campaign trail, however, Senate and Assembly incumbents aren’t talking about the open secret in Albany that a salary increase is planned after the November elections. State law prohibits a sitting Legislature from raising its own pay, but any pay increase approved before Dec. 31 will be effective for lawmakers beginning Jan. 1.


The Democrat-led Assembly proposed a minimum wage increase in the spring, but it wasn’t accepted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Public opinion polls show strong support for raising the wage to $8.50 an hour from $7.25 an hour, although some business groups say it could cost jobs.

Another Democrat-led proposal that would serve Cuomo’s political base is to restrict the stop-and-frisk practices of the New York Police Department. The practice concerns many Democrats as a route to racial profiling.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said Tuesday he understands what legislators want but he’s “more interested in what people want.”

“I would not even consider a pay raise unless the people’s business was being done in a thorough, responsible way,” Cuomo said. “The concept of a pay raise is, ‘Well, the Legislature’s really done a good job and they haven’t gotten a pay raise in a long time.’ But the premise is they are performing well. Then they would have to perform well. And to perform well, in my book, means do the people’s business. That would be the first question.”

The Senate’s Republican majority and the Assembly’s Democratic majority in written statements continued to avoid confirming or denying any plans for a pay raise proposal, which would include raises for top Cuomo administration staff.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos’ spokesman Scott Reif said, “Senator Skelos and the governor have not discussed any issues related to a potential special session.”

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wouldn’t bite, either.

“We thank the governor for focusing on important issues like raising the minimum wage, which has been a top priority for Assembly Democrats and should be a part of any special session later this year,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland said.

Cuomo would have to sign a pay raise bill, unless lawmakers wanted to risk a politically risky veto override. Cuomo used his first December special session last year to trade several major policies when there was little public attention. That included enacting a $1.9 billion increase in the income tax targeted at millionaires while providing a small but rare middle-class cut, after he and the Senate Republicans campaigned against any tax increases or millionaires tax in the 2010 campaigns.

___ Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen contributed to this report from Albany.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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