It’s legal and it’s my money

The following is an edited transcript from a debate between Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs and her challenger Michele Adolphe in our offices on Aug. 19. Jacobs has been the Assembly for more than 30 years, where her annual salary is $104,500. She also receives a pension for her work as a lawmaker of $71,000 per year. Here’s what she said when our panel, and Adolphe, pressed her on this unusual arrangement:

The average voter should understand that it’s legal. I was advised by counsel [that] it’s my money, my pension, and I will also tell you that since it put me into the next income bracket, I pay an enormous amount of tax on it, so that the federal government should really be appreciative.

I don’t have a second job, I don’t work 9-5, and I don’t work five days a week. It’s 24-7. I’m always on call. We haven’t had a raise in 11, 12 years, which is another story. I’m not crying about it.

It’s not true that nobody else can’t do it, everybody can. Anybody’s who’s in a position, by and large, if you want to take your pension, if that’s the structure, you can. It’s not true that nobody else can. Many people can, many people can’t. It’s not a question of fairness. And when I say it’s my money, I paid into it.

Many legislators have second jobs — they are attorneys, they run insurance companies. There are those of us who choose to devote ourselves full-time. Theoretically, it’s a part-time job, for which that salary and pension is supposed to cover a part-time job. But some people, like myself, we work full-time at it because many of us have districts with great need, and we’re available and we’re there and we spend our time fighting for them.

I think that the average voter in the 42nd Assembly District knows this, knows me, knows where I’m coming from, knows what I’ve been doing with them for years, and they make a decision, and they’ve made the decision many times, including the last three times when my opponent lost. Basically, it’s public information, and they understand, pretty much, that after many, many, many years, it’s not like I am taking something for nothing. I would basically like to see everybody in my district, everybody, get a fair wage for their labors, including access to whatever’s coming to them.

Rhoda Jacobs is running for re-election against Michele Adolphe in the 42nd Assembly District, which covers parts of Flatbush and Midwood.