Claim: NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo is giving himself a raise in the middle of a pandemic
With winter approaching, COVID-19 raging and employment rising, money is on America's mind. With that, one of the country's highest paid governors, New York's Andrew Cuomo, is facing criticism for a raise he did not take.
“Andrew Cuomo is giving himself a raise, despite already being the highest paid governor in America, while he locks down his state, putting millions out of work,” falsely claims a meme Elizabeth Johnston posted to Facebook Nov. 20.
Johnston is a Christian social media personality whom USA TODAY has fact checked before.
The meme attributes the statement to conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, who tweeted in the evening on Nov. 18. After USA TODAY contacted Kirk, he took down the tweet.
Turning Point USA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet told USA TODAY he was "unaware of the update" and called the oversight "an honest mistake."
While Cuomo was scheduled to receive an annual pay increase, he did not give himself the raise and announced he would defer it two days before Johnston posted the claim.
Johnston has yet to responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
He will not be taking the raise
Cuomo announced on Nov. 18 that he would not be taking the $25,000 pay raise he was scheduled to receive. State lawmakers approved of the annual salary increase in 2019. He does not decide his raises himself.
“I’m going to ask the commissioners, myself, the other electeds not to take a raise this year,” he said at a Nov. 18 press conference.
Richard Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior adviser, confirmed to USA TODAY the governor would not be taking his scheduled raise in January.
"Given the state of the economy, given the fact that we've deferred pay raises for organized labor workforce, the governor didn't think it was appropriate to take the increase that was going to go into effect in January," he said.
The announcement comes after a state panel recommended on Nov. 16 that New York lawmakers defer pay raises until 2024 to offset the state debt in the wake of COVID-19. The panel’s recommendations did not apply to Cuomo because the New York state Constitution stipulates lawmakers decide the pay of the governor and lieutenant governor rather than the commission.
"Granting raises to public servants, no matter how much they might otherwise deserve them, is simply not possible at this time," wrote the Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation.
The raise would have brought Cuomo's annual salary from $225,00 to $250,000. He likely is the highest-paid governor in the country.
All statewide politicians were scheduled for pay raises, but Cuomo announced he would ask them to defer their raises, too. Azzopardi told USA TODAY that whether those state officials defer their raises would be voluntary, but he said the comptroller, attorney general and lieutenant governor have already agreed.
Aside from his salary, Cuomo earns income from his 2020 book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” He has repeatedly declined to say what he’s made from the book, which debuted at No. 7 on The New York Times’ combined print and e-book nonfiction best seller list. Instead, he said the profits will be available on his annual financial disclosure forms due in spring 2021.
In May, USA TODAY fact checked similar claims that Cuomo and New York legislators had voted to increase their salaries during the pandemic and corresponding financial crisis.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given himself a raise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic FALSE because it is not supported by our research. Statements from Cuomo and his senior adviser confirm he has deferred a $25,000 raise that 2019 lawmakers set for January. Further, the New York governor doesn't grant raises, the state's lawmakers do that.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Nov. 25, "US jobless claims rise to 778,000 as pandemic worsens"
Objectivist, Nov. 19, "Gov. Cuomo To Receive $25K Pay Raise Amid Pandemic"
The Journal News, Nov. 18, "Andrew Cuomo says he will defer pay raise, ask others to do the same"
The Journal News, Nov. 16, "Andrew Cuomo will get a raise in 2021, but lawmakers won't. Here's why."
The Journal News, April 1, 2019, "Here's how much Andrew Cuomo gets paid as New York governor"
Democrat & Chronicle, Oct. 22, "Andrew Cuomo's COVID-19 book sells 11,800 copies, lands on best sellers list"
Democrat & Chronicle, Aug. 19, "Gov. Cuomo refuses to reveal financial details of COVID book deal, vows contribution to charity"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo will defer his raise amid pandemic