Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here's a Lulu of an Idea

Capital Confidential has put in spreadsheet form [Senate|Assembly] what seasoned observers of New York politics already know--the base legislator salary of $79,500 is only the real pay for a fraction of our state legislators who don't receive a stipend, commonly known as a "lulu," for holding so-called leadership positions. CapCon notes that EVERY state senator is eligible for a stipend. (We say eligible because it is possible that some decline the extra cash.) This means that the lowest paid senator would make $88,500. Salaries are only a little less padded on the Assembly side, with two-thirds of Assembly members eligible for an average stipend of $14,427.

There is something to be said for making legislator salaries high enough to attract top-notch individuals to public service. But if we're going to have a discussion about pay raises, which we seem to be in the midst of, let's be honest about what members are earning. There's a lot of extra money floating around the legislature and it provides each chambers' leaders with a lot of extra of power.

Here's an idea: Why not use these lulus to help boost base salaries for all members, regardless of party, seniority or political loyalty? This would reduce the temptation of leaders to use leadership positions and committee chairs to curry favor and force loyalty among members.

For a depressing window on how little Albany has really changed over the years, check out this 1987 New York Times editorial railing against the lulu.

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