NY Senate GOP Backs Deal With Breakaway Democrats

November 17, 2014 Updated: November 17, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y.—The unusual power-sharing arrangement in the New York state Senate between Republicans and a splinter faction of Democrats will continue despite the GOP’s gains, the chamber’s top Republican said Monday.

Following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republican lawmakers, Senate Leader Dean Skelos also announced he would support legislative pay raises for lawmakers and state commissioners if the question came up in a lame-duck session this year.

The Senate had been led by a coalition of Republicans and the breakaway Independent Democrats, but Republicans won the majority outright in the Nov. 4 elections and will hold 32 seats in the 63-member chamber come January. 

The gains prompted speculation that Senate Republicans would brush off the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.

Skelos said he and Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the IDC, will work out the details of the arrangement. Republican senators unanimously re-elected Skelos to his leadership position on Monday.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre in Albany, N.Y., on June 18, 2014. Skelos announced he would support legislative pay raises for lawmakers and state commissioners if the question came up in a lame-duck session this year. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre in Albany, N.Y., on June 18, 2014. Skelos announced he would support legislative pay raises for lawmakers and state commissioners if the question came up in a lame-duck session this year. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

“It’s good to have a clear Republican majority, but I think we need to continue to work together,” Sen. James Seward, an Otsego County Republican, said of the coalition.

Talk of a special lame-duck legislative session emerged shortly after this month’s elections from supporters of legislative pay raises. Lawmakers make $79,500 per year, which hasn’t changed in 14 years. 

Liberal activists suggested other possible objectives for a special session, including raising the minimum wage or authorizing financial aid for students in the country illegally.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said a special session isn’t necessary. Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver supports legislative pay raises but has not had any discussions about a special session, a spokesman said Monday.

Skelos, of Long island, said he would also like lawmakers to figure out the best way to spend the state’s $5 billion surplus, which he said should go to highways and bridges. He dismissed Democratic suggestions.

“We’re not doing DREAM Act, we’re not doing minimum wage, we’re not doing taxpayer financing (of campaigns),” he said.

From The Associated Press