There is an old adage in New York City politics: The City Council could be lost at sea and city government would not suffer one bit. That legislative body is now poised to give itself a hefty raise, reportedly as high as a 32 percent bump, significantly more than what was recommended by a three-member, mayor-appointed commission. Clearly, members of the City Council are not being paid a livable wage – a paltry $112,500 plus benefits per year – dangerously close to the Federal poverty level of $11,770.
In November 2015, reports emerged that some members of the City Council were proposing a whopping 71 percent pay hike for themselves. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, hardly a fiscal conservative, slammed this proposal as “ridiculous” and a poor use of taxpayer funds. Then in December, the city commission proposed a relatively moderate 23 percent pay hike. Naturally, nobody in the City Council protested this raise.
Apparently, the City Council feels that not all public employees deserve similar rewards. Remember, this same Council declined to give police officers and firefighters a boost in their equal disability benefits on the grounds that it was fiscally irresponsible. It is also the same Council that recently urged City Hall to find budget savings across each city agency, despite the Council increasing its own spending. It seems the City Council is only concerned with exercising fiscal restraint as long as their salaries aren’t at stake.
Sources within the City Council have said that these pay increases will include reforms to outside income and ethics. It seems remarkably counterintuitive that a pay raise will be required in order to get these necessary reforms passed. Shouldn’t the two things be done separately? The message to New Yorkers from the City Council is, “In order for us to behave ethically, we want you to give us more money.”
At a time when many city residents are struggling to make ends meet, it behooves the City Council to reconsider their fiscal priorities.
Evan Siegfried, a Republican strategist, is president of Somm Consulting, a public affairs firm based in New York City. He can be followed on Twitter @evansiegfried.
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