1944: The December 18, 1944 edition of TIME Magazine, noted that “New York's state legislators get an annual salary of $2,500, second highest of any state. But in New York, as in most legislatures, there are ways of eking out such a meager sum. For years, the men in Albany's hideous State Capitol have voted themselves and their friends odd petty sums "in lieu of detailed itemized expenditures." In time this custom came to be known to legislators and correspondents as "the wonderful lulu system."
Last week there came testimony as to just what a lulu it was. One of two Albany grand juries, launched by Governor Tom Dewey to investigate legislative graft and Albany's corrupt O'Connell machine, reported that in 1943, under the lulu system, legislators and legislative employees had cost the state $1,433,544.
Hauled before the grand jury, some of lulu's recipients squirmed out explanations: "I didn't do much of anything"; "I ran a few errands." One flatly admitted: "I guess I didn't earn the money."”
1966: Because of the unanticipated length of the 1966 legislative session, legislative leaders agree to provide an additional $1,000 for each legislator to make up for the extra time. In 1965, one state senator dissolved his law practice because of his extended Albany service and inability to practice law with his partners (NY Times 6/9/65 and 4/19/66)
1972: In 1972, a temporary state commission recommended a $5,000 a year salary increase for state legislators and a new per diem and expense voucher system to replace “lulus” then used to pay for travel and lodging costs. . In a report, the commission argued “legislative responsibilities are fast approaching those of a full-time job.” The commission also recommended a creation of a permanent compensation commission to remove the legislatures themselves from determining their own salaries.
Instead of adopting the new salary level, legislative leaders said that the permanent compensation commission should be explored. The commission also approved the legislature’s use of special stipends for committee chairs and ranking members in addition to base salaries and “lulus” as a “reasonable approach.” (New York Times, 4/18/72)
1976: By 1976, Buffalo area Assembly Member Bill Hoyt introduced legislation to take away extra stipends (then collectively known as “lulus”) from all but five top legislative leaders. Hoyt’s legislation “would not appear to have much of a future” according to a legislative staffer. Interestingly, the legislative leaders didn’t get too upset about the bill, introduced by 18 bipartisan freshman who can use the bill to show they tried to reign in legislative expenses for something that has been “misrepresented by most of the press and misunderstood by most of the people.” (New York Times, 4/5/76)
In May, 1976 the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that extra pay allowances legislators approved for themselves in 1975 were unconstitutional (but would not have to be returned to the state). The court decision held that the concept of permitting allowances for lawmakers was legal but that there was a constitutional violation because the payment were authorized for the current legislative term.
The court held that “in the current case, we have not held that the legislators were not entitled to the allowances, but rather have concluded that the particular payments were improperly authorized.” (New York Times, 5/12/76)
In a New York Times article published on May 17, 1976, Steven R. Weisman wrote that many legislators considered themselves “among the more misunderstood professionals of their time on the “Lulu” issue.” Weisman went on to say that the loss of these payments could lead to respected members of the legislature leaving Albany because if the anticipated loss of the additional funds (if the lower court was upheld by the State Court of Appeals).
On June 17, 1976, the State Court of Appeals reversed the appellate court and ruled that the legislature could permit extra allowances with several restrictions. While plaintiffs in the challenge against “lulu’s (the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)) argued against the legislature’s practice of approving allowances, the court held these allowances could not exceed those approved by the previously elected legislature. The 1976 ruling therefore allowed stipend levels set at the 1974 levels. The court permitted the legislature to raise the number and amount of stipends for the 1977 session (following the election of a new legislature in November, 1976) as long as it approved the increases during the 1976 session.
Interestingly, Ed Costikyan, the attorney for the legislature, commented that the court’s ruling left things “a little bit murky” because of the uncertainty of who would control the next elected legislature. The Democratic Party won the majority in the Assembly in 1974 and held a very narrow majority at the time of the 1976 court decision.
In the court’s decision, Judge Hugh R. Jones mentioned that stipends had been a practice for more than 100 years and have been paid in their present manner since 1948.
After the ruling, NYPIRG claimed that “although the final judicial review has been reached, the voters are yet to be heard on the issue) (NY Times, 6/18/76).
In August, 1976, Assembly Member Andrew Ryan (R-Plattsburg) resigned from a legislative committee that went out of existence two years earlier and that he would return the $3,500 stipend he received for the appointment. In his notice to Speaker Stanley Steingut, Ryan argued that he “cannot in good conscience accept payment for a position that has been vacant for two years.” Ryan had been appointed to serve as secretary to the Select Committee on Environmental Conservation, a committee recreated by the legislature in a rules change adopted at 3:00 AM on the closing day of the 1976 session. In that vote, the Assembly reestablished the committee that was abolished earlier in the same session in 1975. Appointments to other defunct committees were also made retroactive to January 1, 1976, permitting newly appointed legislators to accept new stipends. (NY Times, 8/25/76)
1987: A New York Times editorial highlighted the fact that in 1986, 184 of 211 state legislators held leadership titles permitting stipends. A bill passed in a December, 1986 special session added 11 new leadership posts to that number, leaving only 16 legislators elected to serve in 1987 without a stipend.
The Times urged Governor Mario Cuomo to appoint “an independent salary commission” to explore legislative pay issues and to provide “insulation against the criticism that automatically accompanies even justifiable raises for public officials.” (NY Times, 1/2/87)
1988: The State Legislature increased stipends for legislators and raised salaries of state commissioners in a December, 1987 special session. While the special session should have focused on approving a bond measure for tax exempt industrial bonds, several legislators were quoted as acknowledging that the pay increase was the primary reason for the session
The State Budget Director was assured that legislators would take a cut from the budgets elsewhere to make up the difference added by the increase in stipends
While several new leadership stipends were created, others were eliminated. During the session, the Senate Majority, Assembly Speaker and Assembly Minority leader added leadership positions to compensate for “bruised egos” and other changes. Only the Senate Minority Leader declined to make additions or deletions. State commissioners were granted a 5% pay increase. (NY Times 12/29/88)
1997: Governor George Pataki refused to reauthorize seven stipends in December, 1996, six meant for Assembly Democrats. A NY Times editorial mentioned that after the dust settled, even Senate Assistant Minority Whip Pedro Espada was entitled to a $9,500 stipend.
The Governor reversed himself on the seven stipends and later agreed to one additional stipend for a Republican Assembly position (ranking minority member of the Commission on Food, Farm & Nutrition, leaving the Assembly GOP with stipends for 52 of 55 legislators. (NY Times, 1/2/97)
1998: In a November 23 editorial, the NY Times urged that legislative pay raises not include stipends. The editorial also supported campaign finance reform efforts and judicial pay raises.