Pay Raises for Practiced Politicians
By Paul D. Craney | February 12, 2017, 7:53 EDT
The practiced politicians in the Massachusetts House and Senate, working under cover of a dull rules debate and a national political spectacle, recently passed whopping pay increases for themselves and other elected officeholders and members of the judiciary. The raises put some of these folks at the very top levels of earning scale in Massachusetts.
The Senate President and Speaker, each set to earn approximately $142,000, will earn nearly triple that of the average family in Boston. According to his web site Senate President Stan Rosenberg is a “humble and hardworking man.” With his new pay raise, he’ll receive 185 percent more than the average family in Amherst, where he lives. That’s humbling.
Speaker Robert DeLeo, who lives in Winthrop and also represents the city of Revere, will take in nearly twice what the median household in Revere receives, and a third more than the median family in Winthrop.
In our state, the Legislature is held in a stranglehold by the Democratic Party, and that single-party power meant the bill passed easily. Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the bill, saying “given the current fiscal outlook for the state, now is not the time to expend additional funds on elected officials’ salaries.”
Last week, the practiced pols voted to override the veto, proving once again that Massachusetts legislators are more concerned with their own pockets than with their constituents.
The political bigwigs on Beacon Hill pointed to the 2014 report from the so-called Special Advisory Commission Regarding the Compensation of Public Officials as the inspiration for their bill. It’s unsurprising to note that the blue-ribbon committee that conducted the study was appointed by those who most benefit. Also not surprising: not a single public discussion over the impact of the bill was held before it appeared on the floor.
The Legislature hasn’t discussed where the $18 million to fund the pay raise would come from. Legislators haven’t publicly looked at how the pay increase will affect their boosted pensions. Instead, the House and Senate simply mustered their veto-proof majorities and passed a bill into law with no regard for the taxpayers. They snuck in retroactive pay, and added an emergency preamble, ensuring the fresh cash will hit their bank accounts hard and fast. Emergency preambles are meant to be used for things like natural disasters and emergencies, but in this case personal enrichment was used for its justification.
The silence from left-wing watch-dog groups has been deafening. The usual advocates for better government services are scared to rock the boat.
At a time when working-class families are struggling to put food on the table, and when there has been no substantial tax relief for the middle class, legislative leaders like Senate President Rosenberg defended the pay raise as a way to keep younger lawmakers in the legislature.
Rosenberg told State House News Service, “We are losing young people every election cycle … Particularly the younger members who are trying to start families and start their own career ¾ they cannot live on this.” Rosenberg himself, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pay grab, is in his late 60s. Only on Beacon Hill can that be considered younger.
The very lawmakers who benefit the most from the pay-raise scheme are the same loud voices calling for higher taxes. Both Senate President Rosenberg and Speaker DeLeo voted last summer in favor of the new and higher graduated income tax surge on some of our state’s highest earners.
Good work should be rewarded but there is no good in this. Certainly, Massachusetts needs more high-paying jobs and more opportunities for those seeking meaningful employment. But these jobs need to come from the private sector, where wealth is created. Not from government, where tax dollars go to die.
Paul D. Craney is the executive director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. Follow him on Twitter @pauldiegocraney.