BY TODD ALDINGER, ESQ
A significant legislative pay raise would help Republicans recruit and retain the caliber of candidates they need to compete with Democrats.
With Democrats firmly in control of both the State Senate and Assembly, potential Republican candidates may lack the motivation to run for office. Before, Republican State Senators had real power that might have attracted ambitious and accomplished candidates.
The State Assembly meanwhile was often viewed as the first step to an eventual seat in the Senate Majority. Because a Republican Senate Majority is highly unlikely to come about anytime soon, these motivating factors no longer exist. Instead, future candidates for these offices must be willing to endure campaigns where their good names will be besmirched to maybe win an office that requires them to frequently be away from home, in exchange for little real power and less than six figures of compensation.
Except for truly committed public servants, this is not a recipe that can be expected to entice many high caliber Republicans to run for office. Recruiting quality candidates willing to engage in a grueling campaign for months, with only a 50-50 or worse chance of winning, and a much smaller likelihood of being in the majority will be difficult no matter what the salary of state legislators is set at. However, it will be relatively easier the higher the compensation is.
Additionally, because Republican State Senators’ voices will be muted after their loss of the majority, many will be tempted to depart the State Senate for what appear to be greener pastures, such as running for a congressional seat or for county executive. A legislative pay raise will reduce this temptation and help ensure that most, if not all, Republican State Senators run for reelection and thus preserve their incumbency advantage.
Meanwhile, Democrats will not gain the same recruitment advantages from a salary increase. There is already ample motivation for ambitious Democrats to want to be in the State Senate or Assembly—they will be members of the majority and will have an active voice in charting the future of New York State. A salary increase is just icing on the cake. In fact, if anything, a salary increase is likely to be detrimental to incumbent Democrats, as it may inspire primary challengers who will see the salary increase and hear the call to public service. Democrat campaign funds spent in such primaries are funds not spent against Republicans.
While it is mostly Democrats pushing for a salary increase, the Republican Party stands to benefit the most from this increase.