$25K raise will make Cuomo highest paid governor in U.S.

Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is on track to become the nation's governor with the highest annual salary at $250,000 come January, even as a special state pay commission recommended top officials and judges get no raises amid New York's "extremely precarious" fiscal situation.

Cuomo's salary will rise Jan. 1 by $25,000, a hike growing out of legislative action in 2019 — a full year before the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting restrictions on businesses hammered the state's finances and drove up unemployment.

In a report this week, the Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation urged no pay raises be given to members of the Assembly and Senate, judges, gubernatorial appointees and statewide elected officials due to the "extreme economic shock" that has hit state revenues.

“Granting raises to public servants, no matter how much they might otherwise deserve them is simply not possible at this time,” the seven-member panel said in the report. The pay commission was set up by the Legislature five years ago, helping to insulate lawmakers from blowback they could face if they increased their own pay.

Pay increases for Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul — including the raises they got last January — are the subject of ongoing litigation filed by the Government Justice Center. The watchdog organization contends the raises violate the state constitution because they were given during the terms for which they were elected.

Cuomo is also deriving an unknown amount of income this year from his memoir dealing with the first several months of the pandemic. The governor has been actively promoting the book for the past five weeks, a period in which infections and virus-related hospitalizations have surged.

The Times Union of Albany reported on its website Tuesday night that the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics has been reviewing the approval the agency gave to Cuomo's book deal.

But the commission killed a proposal that would have led to increased examination of requests by state officials to collect income from sources outside state government, the newspaper said.

The state salary boosts would benefit Cuomo and Hochul when they retire from state government. In New York, the pensions of state employees are based in part on their three highest consecutive years of pay.

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In attempting to curb the spread of the virus, the Cuomo administration has crafted a strategy aimed at increasing restrictions on communities experiencing "micro clusters" of the contagion.

New data released Tuesday indicated the statewide positivity rate from testing stood at 3.18%. One day earlier it was 2.8%.

The number of people hospitalized due to the virus was pegged at 2,124, reflecting an increase of 156. A total of 296 virus-positive individuals were patients in intensive care units. Western New York was the region with the highest positivity rate at 6.5%

Citing a spike in drug overdose deaths in some upstate communities since the pandemic reached them, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, is promoting federal legislation that would include funding for substance-abuse treatment in the next federal relief package for state and local governments.

Social isolation, added financial stress, the scarcity of jobs and mental stress and uncertainty have been factors in a wave of overdoses across the state, according to an advisory from Gillibrand's office.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com .

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