A veteran state Senator is under fire during a heated re-election campaign for calling for massive raises for Albany lawmakers if they’re willing to do what most voters are already forced to do: work full time.
State Sen. Marty Connor wants members of the Assembly and Senate to earn $52,000 more per year — on top of their $79,500 base salaries — if they agree to swear off any salaries from outside work that they are currently allowed to perform.
Connor submitted his bill last May, but it drew no attention until this week, in the midst of a heated primary battle against newcomer Daniel Squadron — only the third challenge he’s faced in his 30 years in the Senate.
“Millions of New Yorkers do full-time jobs for salaries much lower than the $80,000 that state Legislators make,” Squadron said. “This bonus bill would be like Isiah Thomas giving himself a bonus for the job he did coaching the Knicks. It’s these sorts of self-serving ideas that are exactly what’s wrong with Albany.”
Connor responded that the bill is actually a real attempt at reforming Albany.
“It came on the heels of the investigation into [former Majority Leader] Joe Bruno’s outside income,” Connor said. “Members of Congress used to be allowed to have outside jobs, but Congress realized that it was a bad idea, so they dealt with it and, yes, naturally got a pay raise.”
Connor touted his bill because it would not only require 40-hour work-weeks, but force legislators to file time sheets. And lawmakers who opt into the voluntary system would be expelled from the Legislature if found to be earning salaries on the side.
“In the end, everyone would be forced to opt in because of political pressure,” said Connor, who works on the side as one of the state’s top election lawyers. “If you don’t opt in, an opponent could make an issue of it.”
Connor’s opponents already are.
“Unlike a bill that would require a full-time legislature, under this proposal Marty Connor would base his commitment to the district on comparison shopping — choosing between a bonus that’s more than most New Yorkers make in a year and a legal practice that’s netted him more than $650,000 since 2000,” said Squadron campaign spokesman Josh Kriegman.
But Connor said a “thoughtful public” would understand what his bill seeks to accomplish — but that’s not entirely clear.
“Wouldn’t it make sense to pay them less [for] part time, which they seem to be doing now?” asked Julie Creavin, 43, of Brooklyn Heights. “It’d make more fiscal sense for the state to keep the money. Do they really need 40 hours a week to get that done?”— with Michael Lipkin