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Ritchie employs more staff members than most state senators

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State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie has 18 employees on her payroll, which puts her near the top in the state Senate and is more than her fellow north country Republicans.

But the amount of state money that goes toward her payroll is under budget, according to staffers for Mrs. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and is nearly the same amount that her predecessor paid to fewer staffers.

“She voted to cut the Senate’s budget after the other side ran up considerable deficits and she wants to make sure her constituency has access to her and her staff, and if there’s a problem, she has access to them,” said Graham Wise, Mrs. Ritchie’s chief of staff.

Mrs. Ritchie spends $527,000 annually on payroll, Mr. Wise said. That is under budget by $50,000, Mr. Wise said — though spokesmen for neither the majority Republicans nor the Democrats could confirm that figure. Michael Murphy, the spokesman for the Senate Democrats, did say that each senator is guaranteed $350,000 for staff payroll. The payroll figures do not include the senator’s own salary, which is $80,000 and can climb to $100,000 for committee chairmen or ranking members.

A spokesman for the Republicans was also unable to say whether Mrs. Ritchie’s annual payroll of $527,000 puts her on par with other senators.

However, the Senate releases a payroll sheet every two weeks showing each senator’s employees and what the employees made. Because some of the workers are part time or seasonal, so it’s impossible to tell how much each current staff member makes annually.

And twice a year, the Senate tallies payroll numbers to show how much each senator paid out. The most recent report came out in February, covering April to September 2011.

During those six months, Mrs. Ritchie had 17 employees, who would have earned $535,000 in a full year. By comparison, state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, had 13 employees who would have been paid $367,000 in a full year. He currently has 11 employees. State Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, had 10 employees during that period, who would have earned a total of $444,000 in a full year.

Former state Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, had 12 people on his staff in August 2010. But he did not have offices in St. Lawrence or Oswego counties, as Mrs. Ritchie does. And certain types of employees on Mrs. Ritchie’s payroll were not counted against Mr. Aubertine’s payroll. For example, Mrs. Ritchie has a staffer dedicated to agriculture issues because she chairs the Agriculture Committee. A similar staffer for Mr. Aubertine was listed under the then-majority Democrats’ expenses.

A Senate expenditure report shows that from mid-March of 2010 to mid-September of 2010, Mr. Aubertine’s staff members were on pace to earn $487,000 a year. The figure does not include the $75,000 that the director of the Agriculture Committee was paid, because unlike current practice, the Democrats listed that expense under the umbrella of the majority.

Democrats controlled the Senate for stretches in 2009 and 2010, but, partly because of Mrs. Ritchie’s victory in 2010, Republicans took over. Republicans are quick to point out that they have spent less in the first year of their majority than the Democrats did. Democrats spent $51 million on Senate expenses in 2010, while the Republicans spent $40 million, according to a news release fromt he Republicans.

State Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, has the most employees in the Senate with 26, according to Senate records. State Sen. Joaquim M. Martins, R-Mineola, employs 19. State Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, has 18 employees. Fifty-eight of the 62 senators have fewer than 18 employees.

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