Stopping Unconstitutional Executive Pay Raises

GJC sued to stop illegal raises paid to New York’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

In the flurry of budget bill voting during the early hours of the morning of April 1, 2019, the Legislature introduced and passed a compensation resolution increasing the Governor and Lieutenant Governor salaries effective January 1, 2019, the date their new elective terms began.  

The New York State Constitution in plain language prohibits increasing the Governor’s or Lieutenant Governor’s compensation during their elected terms. The Legislature blatantly ignored this prohibition, overturning almost 200 years of precedent and practise.

The resolution raised the Governor’s salary from $179,000 to $250,000 by 2021. The Lieutenant Governor’s salary similarly increased from $151,500 to $220,000 by 2021.  

The prohibition on increasing or decreasing the governor’s salary during an elected term became part of the state Constitution in 1821 when the people of New York amended the Constitution to provide the Governor with veto power over legislation. The Legislature defied the Constitution by changing that salary amount during the Governor’s elected term. It further highlighted the wisdom of New York’s founders when it made subsequent raises contingent on the state budget being passed “on time” in 2020 and 2021.

Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist No. 73 that if a legislature had the power to increase or diminish the executive’s compensation during an elected term, the legislature “could render him as obsequious to their will as they might think proper to make him.”

The case is on appeal at the Third Department Appellate Division.