Common Cause/NY Releases Major Review of Outside Income for NYS Lawmakers

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  • Susan Lerner
Analysis based on 2015 JCOPE filings for all 213 legislators

Skelos and Silver convictions spur increased pressure to limit outside income

Common Cause/NY released an exhaustive and detailed analysis of outside income for all 213 members of the New York State Legislature. The review is particularly relevant on the heels of the Silver and Skelos convictions, and provides the clearest picture of the type of outside work lawmakers get paid for.

“It’s clear that corruption is a systematic problem in Albany where lawmakers can use their office to enrich themselves through outside jobs. New Yorkers deserve the full commitment of their elected officials without having to compete with private interests. Although serving in the Legislature is technically a part-time job, the responsibility to the public is anything but,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.


All lawmakers must submit financial disclosure forms to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which are publically available in PDF form. Common Cause/NY downloaded 2015 formers for all 213 lawmakers from the JCOPE website and entered the data into an Excel format for analysis. The data reflect 2014 incomes. As such, Common Cause/NY has separated lawmakers elected in the 2014 cycle who would’ve properly reported their incomes prior to serving in public office. Common Cause/NYexpects that many, if not all, new members no longer hold their prior jobs.

Lawmakers do not have to list their exact income on their financial disclosure forms, only a range. Common Cause/NY calculated an estimated income by averaging the sum of the minimum and the sum of the maximum. The numbers vary depending on the range, and the number of outside incomes (some lawmakers list multiple sources).


• Of the 183 lawmakers elected prior to the most recent cycle, roughly 60%, or 110, do not have any outside income.

• The remaining 40%, or 73, list one or more sources of supplemental income to their $79,500 base pay.

• On average, lawmakers (elected before 2014) w/outside income make between $47,216 – $80,216.

• The majority of legislators who earn a high outside income were elected between 2010 and 2013. Two-thirds of the Legislature turned over between 2010-2013. Of the 72 new members, a little less than half of them reported outside incomes, and half of those in the income brackets of 50-100K and 100-515K.

• Around 8% of elected legislators in both houses make between $100K-515K

• The majority of lawmakers who hold outside jobs are lawyers (38), with either the title “partner” or “of counsel” to a law-firm, making a combined estimated sum of almost $3 million.

• Legislators in the insurance industry make the highest amount of outside income with an average of $140,750

• Six legislators made the majority of their outside income from teaching at a university for the average pay of $17K

• Least Conflicted Award: Senator David Valesky, who plays piano at Sunday church services. Runner-up: Assemblymember JoAnne Simon who is a court appointed guardian for a senior citizen.

Click here for the full Excel spreadsheet:


Common Cause/NY supports a ban on outside income with a pay raise for lawmakers, as well as the establishment of a full time legislature. Barring the trifecta, Common Cause/NY would support limits on outside income based on the Congressional model which is 15% of the highest salary paid to any sitting legislator, with limits on the type of occupation a member can hold.

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