Check Out What Else They’re Getting — Spreadsheet Shows Pay Raises Cast Wide Net
By State House News Service | January 30, 2017, 13:54 EDT
By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — The group of House lawmakers who receive significantly larger paychecks than their rank-and-file peers is about to grow much larger if the pay-raise bill the governor vetoed Friday becomes law.
Positions that are now unpaid whose existences are almost completely unknown to the voting public — such as vice chairman of the House Committee on Bills in Third Reading — would come with a $15,000 stipend under the legislation.
Most of the attention has focused on the large pay increases for Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo (both Democrats), the two co-sponsors of the pay package, and Governor Charlie Baker (a Republican), who vetoed the proposed raises, calling them “fiscally irresponsible” and warning they will added to unfunded pension obligations.
The governor has said neither he nor Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would accept any pay hikes.
A spreadsheet created by State House News Service of the planned increases included in the bill for lawmakers, statewide elected officials, and judges, makes plain that the benefits are spread far and wide in the Legislature.
A spokeswoman for Senate Ways and Means who was provided a copy of the chart said the stipend amounts appear accurate. A spokeswoman for the Treasury who was also provided a copy concurred that the additional compensation for the House and Senate appeared accurate.
This chart shows the size of proposed new salaries and expenses running left to right, largest to smallest. [Credit: State House News Service]
Many of the legislative pay changes are unique to the House, which has 160 members, many of whom hold no positions even on the lower rungs of the leadership or committee ladders. The Senate is different. Each of its 40 members holds some position of distinction — chairing a committee or two or holding a position of leadership.
Under the bill, lawmakers can receive additional compensation for holding up to two positions — such as a leadership position and a chairmanship position — and can only receive a stipend for one committee chairmanship — a rule that would likely only apply in the Senate.
One effect of the changes supported by the Democrat-led Legislature is that the club of lawmakers entitled to some form of pay-enhancement would expand. All vice chairmen will be able to receive at least a $5,200 increase.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, who passed the bill by veto-proof majorities — 72 percent of the House and 77 percent in the Senate — appear poised this week to take the override votes that would cement the raises over Baker’s veto. The House enacted the pay raises on a 116-43 vote, and the Senate passed its proposal 31-9.
The House and Senate have yet to make committee appointments, but last year there were 25 joint committees and 11 House committees in addition to leadership positions, according to the most recent Committee Book of the General Court. This session legislative leaders anticipate creating an additional committee dealing with marijuana matters.
Under the current pay regime, the chairmen of eight committees, including some joint committees, receive $15,000 or more, while the rest of the chairs receive $7,500. Under the bill, nine vice chairmen and ranking minority committee members who now receive no stipends will make an extra $15,000 — the same amount paid to the chairmen of Financial Services and Health Care Financing committees today.
Even Republicans — who voted unanimously against the measure — have refrained from suggestions lawmakers are unworthy of extra pay.
“My issue is far more about the reality of being able to afford it. I’m not saying these people don’t work hard,” said Senator Vinny deMacedo, a Plymouth Republican. “You have to work hard. I think most of my colleagues are very bright intelligent people. They probably could be making more elsewhere. But I hear good stories every day about why we should be doing more for specific things, and yet we have this challenging responsibility of budgeting.”
Under the bill the busy and often controversial work of leading the Judiciary Committee, as well as committees dealing with education, energy, and transportation, will carry a reward of $30,000. Those committees had previously been grouped with quieter committees whose chairmen were paid a smaller sum.
All lawmakers, regardless of their rank, will be entitled to receive more money for their “expenses” — $7,800 or $12,800 depending on how close they live to the State House. At the same time the bill eliminates the per-diem payments that have been available to lawmakers for each day they travel to the State House, pro-rated based on how far away they live.
Rosenberg explained that expenses can go toward a district office or be included as part of a lawmakers’ income.
“It’s historically been a 1099 form, which means that it’s reported as income if you do not submit receipts to your accountant as the taxes are being prepared,” Rosenberg said. “So some people spend the entire $7,200 on their district office and phone and all of that — and some don’t make the full $7,200 in expenses, so that portion will be taxed.”
At other levels of government the bill, which does not reduce anyone’s pay, ratchets up some paychecks by greater amounts than others, altering the hierarchy of pay.
Auditor Suzanne Bump – now second only to the governor in pay rate among statewide elected leaders — would receive a $24,000 raise, joining a relatively lower tier pay bracket consisting of herself, the lieutenant governor, and the secretary of state. The treasurer and the attorney general would be paid $175,000, while a governor who chose to accept all that is offered to him or her under the legislation would receive $250,000 a year in salary and housing allowance.
While the stipends would be spread wider in the House, the biggest raises are still concentrated around DeLeo and Rosenberg’s inner circle and with their Republican counterparts. The chairmen of Ways and Means, the majority and minority leaders in both branches, and the speaker and Senate president pro tempore all would receive raises near or above 50 percent, when the hike in expense allotments are factored in.
The speaker pro tempore and Senate president pro tempore would receive a $35,000 stipend, which is what Rosenberg and DeLeo make today.
The future chairmen, vice chairmen, assistant vice chairmen, and ranking minority members who will see their pay rise would be looking at increases ranging from 39 percent to 18 percent.
Unlike many of his colleagues who have shied away from addressing the matter with reporters, Rosenberg has spoken about it frequently with the news media this past week. On Thursday outside the Senate chamber, the Senate president addressed a television reporter who asked why it was so complicated.
“I think it’s pretty simple if you sit down and read it. I think some people may have problems with the idea and therefore it becomes more complicated,” Rosenberg said.
In his veto message on Friday, Baker wrote, “This legislation will increase the salaries of public officials across the board, not only by setting a higher salary for legislators, constitutional officers, and the judiciary, but by implementing an index mechanism that ensures that salaries for legislators and constitutional officers will only increase over time and do so at a rate that exceeds any reasonable expectations for revenue growth. Indeed, had this mechanism applied to the salary adjustments made in January 2017, it would have resulted in a two-year increase of 9.47 percent as compared to the biennial adjustment of 3.96 percent as recently ascertained under Constitutional Amendment 118.”