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. . . BUT TIE LEGISLATORS' RAISE TO REFORMS

The case for state legislator raises, as compared to state judges, is much more problematical. Nevertheless, we would support a moderate raise, but only if it's tied to reforms in Albany that would make the State Legislature less like the private fiefdoms of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

It's easy to find sympathy with Change-New York's argument that the state lawmakers don't deserve any raise at all, even though they haven't had one since 1989. They certainly don't deserve the whopping 38 percent increase they would get under a bill put forth by Assembly Democrats. Under that bill, base pay would go from $57,500 to $79,500 a year. Stipends for leadership positions and committee assignments would go from a maximum of $30,000 to a top of $41,500. If anything, the system of awarding these stipends, or lulus, should be reviewed with an eye toward eliminating some of them.

Some sources have indicated that lawmakers are seeking a big hit this year on the theory that a political beating over a major pay hike won't be any more painful than a beating over a small one.

Whatever the reasoning, the pay increases proposed by Assembly Democrats are clearly excessive, and ought to be rejected. A reasonable measure -- such as a cost-of-living increase or a raise that's tied to state union-contract pay hikes -- is warranted, however.

Any raise, though, should be tied to reforms that open the Legislature to real debate, instead of the lock-step member dependence encouraged by the lulus doled out by Bruno and Silver.

One deal floating around is a link between raises and legislative approval of charter schools. The ability to experiment with charter schools is certainly a worthwhile goal, but not sufficient as a quid pro quo for a raise.

In addition, other deals that reportedly are being considered by Gov. Pataki, such as linking a pay increase to tax reductions and dropping a Democratic lawsuit over budget vetoes, also should be rejected.

New Yorkers are paying our representatives to do the people's business. They deserve assemblymen and senators who are more than puppets to party leaders. If it takes a moderate raise to bring about that kind of reform, it will be well worth the price.

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