Published in the Star-Gazette Feb. 1, 2018
On Dec. 11, I attended a meeting of the Chemung County Legislature during which Resolution No. 17-636 passed by a vote of 12-3. With this vote, the legislators gave themselves a pay raise effective Jan. 1.
Members of our Legislature will now earn $15,790 per year plus benefits, all for what is only a part-time job. Even more troubling is the fact that the chairperson of the legislature will receive $37, 895.
The recent proposal to increase salaries for legislators in St. Lawrence County provides some thought-provoking comparisons. According to figures from 2015, Chemung County had a population of 87,071; St. Lawrence County had a population of 111,007. Yet, St. Lawrence County legislators receive a salary of $9,000 that has not been raised in 18 years.
Some of the responses to the suggestion of an increase are worth a closer look. In an article in the Watertown Daily Times on Nov. 1, 2017, Kevin D. Acres (R), chairman of the legislature, said, “I certainly cannot support this when I feel so strongly that we are so overtaxed in New York.” Legislator John H. Burke (R) also spoke against the increase: “I think for most of us, being on the legislature is a matter of civic pride.” It is unfortunate that most of our local officials do not feel the same way.
Not only did the Chemung County legislators vote themselves a pay increase, they also voted on Resolution No. 17-629, which establishes the new salary for the county executive at $166,273. This resolution passed by a vote of 15-0. That salary places our county executive as one of the most highly compensated county executives in the state.
By comparison, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earns $150,000. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker makes $151,800. Florida Gov. Rick Scott receives $130,273. Given the responsibilities of governing a state with a population in the millions and a budget in the billions, what possible justification is there for the executive of a small upstate county to have a salary that is higher than theirs? In fact, the Chemung County Executive’s $166,273 salary is higher than that received by 41 of the nation’s 50 governors.
Perhaps the legislators voting themselves such raises assume that the voters are not aware of their actions. Perhaps they assume that the voters will forget by the November election. I, for one, am aware of their actions, I am disappointed in their decisions, and I hope that all voters will remember in November.
Anthony Pucci is a Horseheads resident.