Where is the discussion?
By Mimi Parseghian
The Massachusetts Legislature is about to give themselves a pay raise with little attention and public discussion. The House Leadership dusted off a 2014 report which made a number of recommendations for salary adjustments.
This base salary of the State Reps and State Senators is set by a constitutional amendment which ties their pay to the state’s average household income. At the end of December, Governor Charlie Baker announced that based on his calculations, the base salaries will be raised by 4.9 percent, from $60,032 to $62,547.
That is the base pay and then there are the stipends. Late last week, the leadership floated an idea of increasing these stipends. Legislators receive stipends for office expenses, travel and committee leadership positions. The original proposal, which was floated last Thursday, totaled about $1 million.
However, this figure has been reduced and we will know the exact cost on Thursday when the legislation is introduced. The Globe reported in a recent edition that the leadership and committee stipend increase is about 40 percent. There is also a plan to merge the per diem allotment with the office expense and give a flat fee of $15,000 for those who live within 50 miles of the State House and $20,000 for those who live further.
In the past we have had some legislators, including State Senator Eileen Donoghue and State Rep Tom Golden, who did not take their per diem allotment. By merging the two, I am not sure what options will be available to refuse that portion of your stipend.
There is also talk of a pay hike for the eight constitutional officers but we will need to wait until the full proposal is made public to determine what adjustments will be made to their salary.
I think a biannual review of the salary of our elected officials is fair. I am not against an adjustment in their compensation. But I do agree with those who question the timing of this measure, coming at what some call “a huge national distraction.”
If this passes, will Charlie Baker veto it? And if he does not, how does he justify his actions when he had no problems cutting the budget and eliminating funding for environmental and healthcare groups, among other programs?
And as far as the House leadership is concerned, perhaps they will succeed with little or no pushback but I hope someone was looking outside their window on Saturday at the Women’s March on the Boston Common. I think a politicized society will make demands on all elected officials, not just the one who motivated Saturday’s demonstration.