- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

New York is facing a $63 billion budget deficit in a couple years and the state had the highest COVID death toll in the nation.

And that made Gov. Andrew Cuomo give back a scheduled $25,000 raise that would have made him the nation’s highest-paid governor.

According to a report Wednesday in the New York Daily News, after a day of news reports over the raise, Mr. Cuomo said at an Albany press conference that he would defer the pay raise.

“I am going to ask the commissioners, myself, the other electeds, not to take a raise this year,” he said.

Not only would Mr. Cuomo have seen see his salary rise to $250,000 on Jan. 1, the state’s judges and lawmakers won’t get a raise — because the state is too broke.

According to a report in the New York Post, the Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation did not approve any pay increases for the state’s officeholders, citing the enormous budget deficits the state must close.

“Substantial additional state monies will be needed to deal with the pandemic, including providing face masks, virus tracking, contact tracing, enforcement efforts, and distribution of the hoped for new pandemic vaccine,” the panel explained in a report released Monday evening.

“Granting raises to public servants, no matter how much they might otherwise deserve them, is simply not possible at this time,” the Commission wrote.

The panel report also said that “we understand the potential for significant budget cuts may be necessary at the state executive level as well if the federal government does not enact additional funding to address the economic hardship caused by COVID-19.”

However, the Post explained, Mr. Cuomo’s salary raise, which was ordered in spring 2019, would happen anyway.

Increases for the state’s other top executive officers — the lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller — also would have happened as planned.

Mr. Cuomo said at his Wednesday briefing that he will consult with those officials and is “going to ask them to defer their raises and not take a raise, given the overall financial picture.”

The salaries of the top executive-branch officials are not within the Commission’s authority. Changes have to be made by a joint resolution from both Democratic-led houses of the state Legislature.

According to the Post, the Commission’s decision freezes lawmakers’ and judges’ salaries for four years, unless the Legislature affirmatively raises them on its own.

New York’s state legislators make $79,500 per year, the Post reported.
Mr. Cuomo did not comment on the pay commission’s decision, but did say he expects a federal bailout under presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden.

“We don’t dig out of it. We don’t have a shovel big enough to dig out of it, it’s the biggest number in history. We need help from Washington, and that’s what Trump wouldn’t do, and that’s what Biden will do,” he said during a radio interview Tuesday. “He will fund state and local governments and we need that to come even close to balancing the budget.”

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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