Wednesday, May 02, 2007

State judges deserve better

Newsday Editorial

The state's judges got the short end of the stick again this week, when a plan for a long overdue pay raise hit the skids. The problem for judges - who've had only one raise in 19 years - is that legislators linked judicial pay hikes to increases for themselves, unconscionably holding judges hostage in an effort to fatten their own paychecks. The linkage almost paid off for legislators this week. A proposal combining a raise for judges with the creation of a compensation commission to consider future pay hikes - for judges and lawmakers - appeared to have the votes to pass. But it was derailed when Senate Democrats, nudged by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, pulled their support for the plan and Assembly Democrats put it on hold. Chief Judge Judith Kaye had proposed the commission in a pragmatic bid, borne of frustration, to move the issue of judges' pay out of the statehouse. That's the right thing to do. The state's judges were given pay parity with federal judges nine years ago but have seen their compensation stagnate since then. New York's Supreme Court justices are paid $136,700 a year; federal district court judges, $165,200. But raises for legislators shouldn't be outside the political arena. Lawmakers are paid $79,000 a year, a $152 per diem while in session and additional pay for leadership positions. That's a good deal for a part-time job that allows outside earnings. Spitzer, who agrees judges should get a raise, said the legislature should reform its notoriously ineffective ways before even considering its own pay hike. The legislature should decouple judicial and legislative raises, give judges an immediate increase, and provide a mechanism for regular cost-of-living increases. Then, if there's a case to be made for legislative raises, legislators are welcome to make it.

Our judges deserve a raise........let's cut the political crap out...and give them one...........andy

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