AP NEWS

Suit seeks to block pay hike for NY governor, lieutenant

December 18, 2019 GMT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A conservative good government group is suing to block a pay hike that would place Gov. Andrew Cuomo among the nation’s highest paid governors.

The Government Justice Center is seeking an injunction blocking the pay hike in a lawsuit filed in state court this month against Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The nonprofit claims the state’s constitution prohibits changing a governor or lieutenant governor’s compensation during their term.

Cuomo’s salary is set to jump from $200,000 this year to $225,000 in January and $250,000 in 2021. That’s compared to the $179,000 salary the Democratic governor had when he took office in January following his 2018 re-election.

“Section 7 of Article XIII of the New York Constitution in plain language prohibits increasing or diminishing the compensation of the governor or lieutenant governor during the term for which they are elected,” Government Justice Center Executive Director Cameron Macdonald said. “Regardless of any arguments that might be made for raising these salaries for the first time in 20 years, ignoring the state constitution sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rule of law in New York.”

The Government Justice Center also wants the court to block pay hikes for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose salary is set to increase from $151,500 in January to $210,000 in 2020 and $220,000 in 2021.

Cuomo and Hochul will only get a pay hike if lawmakers approve a “timely” state budget under state law.

The offices of Cuomo and DiNapoli declined comment.

The base salaries of the nation’s governors range from $201,680 in California, to $70,000 in Maine, according to The Council of State Governments. Many states provide governors with official residences, travel allowances and access to state automobiles, airplanes and helicopters.

A special state commission proposed the governor’s pay raise last year, and lawmakers approved the hikes in March.

The commission also successfully proposed raising pay for legislators this year from $79,500 to $110,000.

But the Government Justice Center sued in 2018 claiming the commission could not impose restrictions on lawmakers’ outside incomes while setting annual legislative pay hikes.

In June, state Judge Christina Ryba upheld the pay hike for legislators this year. But she said the commission lacked authority to restrict outside income and she blocked legislative pay hikes for 2020 and 2021.