To see the final package the legislature is actually voting on — please go to this link.
The uncomfortable subject of state elected-official compensation has come up. I am likely to need to vote on it sometime soon and I would welcome your thoughts.
Back in 2014, the legislature created a commission to review the compensation of the legislature and state constitutional officers. The commissioners included two in senior positions at the University of Massachusetts, one from the Governor’s budget agency, two from good government groups (the League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation), two more from the private sector (one from the Business Roundtable, one a former Federal Reserve executive).
It would not be fair to call anyone in the group an outsider, but the group was certainly well-informed, experienced, competent and credible and their report is very complete and factual. It is significant that their findings and recommendations were unanimous in every respect.
The commission’s report came out in December 2014, in the middle of the Patrick-to-Baker transition. There was no appetite to act on it at the start of the 2015-2016 session as the state was going through a round of deep budget cuts.
From a legislative perspective, there is no good or comfortable time to act on the report, but now is a reasonable time. It makes sense to consider compensation in the beginning of a session when most of the legislative leadership roles have not been assigned — fewer legislators will have to vote on particular stipends associated with their own positions.
In a nutshell, the commission recommended substantial pay raises for the state’s senior elected leaders. Their compensation is not out of line with compensation of similar positions in other states, but it is a small fraction of the compensation of roughly comparable positions in the private sector. The commission pointed to the need to attract skilled leaders, the desirability of keeping those leaders away from financial pressures that would create temptations and the importance of attracting those who are not independently wealthy to serve.
The Governor would go from $151,800 to $250,000 (including a new housing allowance) and the other constitutional officers — Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor and Secretary of State — would receive increases to $165,000 or $175,000. The largest percentage increase would go to the Senate President and the Speaker, who despite their enormous power and central role, have the lowest salaries — they would rise from $102,279 to $175,000. Knowing the responsibilities of all of these positions and having a window into the work load and pressures that they entail, I support these increases without ambivalence. The pay scale will still remain dramatically below comparable private sector roles and, in fact, well below many public sector roles (see box below).
The recommendations of the commission will only result in minimal changes for the majority of legislators. The base compensation of legislators is governed by a constitutional amendment (Article CXVIII) which causes it to rise and fall with the median household income of the state. It was $58,157 when I started in 2007 and has moved up and down, most recently increased to $62,547 as of the start of this year. In addition to that base compensation, legislators receive an expense allowance of $7,200, which is fixed by statute. This allowance goes straight into legislative paychecks as taxable W-2 income and there is no specific accounting for actual expenses. Finally, legislators are entitled to a statutory “per diem” payment for each day that they travel to the state house, ranging from $10 to $100 based on travel distance. Many legislators decline the per diem, as do I.
The commission recommended that the per diem concept be abolished and that the expense allowance be increased to $10,000 for close-in legislators and $15,000 for legislators outside a 50 mile radius. For the closest legislators who have been declining the per diem, this will net to a $2,800 increase. For a few of the most distant legislators who, given their high travel costs, do accept the per diem, the change may net to a slight decrease. The per diem concept is messy, arbitrary and unverifiable. I support without ambivalence the concept of eliminating it and adjusting the expense allowance as proposed.
For legislators who hold some type of leadership post — a committee chairmanship or a role in floor operations (majority leader, whip, etc.) — the commissions recommendations may have a substantial impact. The commission recognized that “reasonable adjustments in the stipends provided to other House and Senate leadership positions are justified” but did not detail any recommendations as to these positions. Given the substantial increases recommended for the top leaders, some substantial adjustment would be appropriate. As of this writing, there is no proposal on the table, but if we vote on a bill in the next week or two, it is likely to include increases for the various stipended leadership posts. Currently most committee chairs receive stipends of $7,500 with certain committees ranging higher, up to $25,000 for the Ways and Means chairs.
For example, as Senate Chair of the Judiciary, my pre-tax paycheck last year included base pay of $60,033 plus $7,200 for expense plus a chairmanship stipend of $7,500 — a total of $74,733. With the proposed expense adjustment, that would increase to $77,533. The stipend would likely also increase by a so-far unspecified amount, but I would expect the amount to be material.
I have always been grateful for the opportunity to serve the public. I have made peace with the idea that I earn substantially less than I did in private sector roles I held right out of school and I have been proud to make the life-style sacrifices I have made over my 25 years of appointed and elected public service. The life style I do have is adequate and I am acutely aware that there are many people in need at this time.
Responses to Comments (as of January 23)
Thanks so much to all of who have commented on both sides of this question. The exchange has helped me a lot.
A couple of points that I neglected to mention that are responsive to some of the comments:
- The stipends for legislative leaders have not been adjusted since 1982. The bulk of the recommended pay increase for them is catch up to inflation. This should give some comfort to those commenters who are comparing the large percentage increase to adjustments they are accustomed to receiving themselves. After the increase, the two senior legislative leaders will be at or near the top in the nation, but, other states will catch up as they get around to making adjustments. To avoid big catch up adjustments in the future the commission recommended indexing of the legislative stipend.
- The adjustments taken together total under 0.01% of the state budget and they will be absorbed within agency budgets. The specific recommendations of the commission total under $1,000,000 and the less specific recommendations as to other legislative leadership roles will have similarly limited costs. No budgetary increase will be required in the current fiscal year, but, in future years, the costs will be part of the budgetary base.
- The responsibilities of legislative leaders are actually and necessarily much greater than those of other members. Some lamented the steep differences in compensation among legislators at different levels of responsibility. While I favor a shared leadership model and a transparent, inclusive approach, there has to be an identified leadership team to run the show on a day-to-day basis and there is a lot to that.
- Legislators will not be voting on their own personal compensation, rather on the compensation of a class of employees that happens to include them. That sounds like distinction without a difference, but it is actually important. Many votes that legislators take affect them personally — if they cut taxes, they benefit from the tax cut; if they spend more on schools, their kids benefit from a better education. Ethical rulings prohibit legislators outright from voting on matters in which they have a unique personal interest, but not on matters in which they are members of a beneficiary class.
I’m grateful to those who commented to the effect of “you deserve it”, but this conversation has helped me get clear in my own mind that that is not the right question. It is irrelevant whether any particular individual or even a class of individuals “deserves” an increase. While other hard-working people are struggling, no one “deserves” anything.
The real question is how the compensation adjustments will affect the public interest generally. As a taxpayer, I favor the increases for two basic reasons. First, these important positions should be attractive enough that there is vibrant competition to fill them. Many voters would say that they don’t feel that they consistently have good options. Every two years (four years for the statewide offices), these seats are open, but there is often only one candidate. To some extent the lack of competition reflects satisfaction with the performance of incumbents and/or recognition of the power of incumbency, but it also suggests that the compensation offered is often inadequate to attract people.
Second, I don’t want legislative leaders to feel distracting financial pressures. The responsibilities of legislative leaders do create financial strains. They are expected to make numerous public appearances and frequently to pickup event costs for other legislators, staff and constituents. If they do have any significant outside sources of income (which most legislators do not), they have less time to devote to them. It has been become standard practice for senior legislators to fund-raise heavily and to spend those campaign funds on business expenses like business phone, business travel and business meals. While the practice is legal, it does reflect financial strain and contributes to a tighter relationship between donors and legislative leaders. The pay increase will not end that practice, but it will lower the strain in a healthy way.
Overall, the commission’s recommendations are thoughtfully designed and benefit the public. I expect to support the legislative package that implements them.
What do public employees make?
A lot of people seem to be responding to the proposed numbers for the senior elected officials as being too high. I would agree that they should not be making what bandit CEO’s make (millions or billions).
But I do feel that the proposed salaries in the $150,000 + range are actually reasonable — at the proposed levels, the top leaders would still be making less than hundreds or thousands of public employees. That may be the most appropriate comparison.
Any one can view the entire state payroll at mass.gov/opencheckbook. If you take a minute to download the data and sort through you will see that among state employees in 2016, there were:
- 172 earning more than $250,000 (the originally proposed level for the Governor)
- 1,173 earning more than $175,000 (the originally proposed level for the Speaker and Senate President)
- 12,476 earning more than $102,279 (the current level of the Speaker and Senate President)
- 35,917 earning more than $74,733 (the current level of a typical Senator like me)
In the City of Boston in 2014, according to a download from https://data.cityofboston.gov/ there were:
- 66 earning more than $250,000 (the originally proposed level for the Governor)
- 591 earning more than $175,000 (the originally proposed level for the Speaker and Senate President)
- 4,621 earning more than $102,279 (the current level of the Speaker and Senate President)
- 9,400 earning more than $74,733 (the current level of a typical Senator like me)
Those earning more than the typical Senator include school custodians, teachers, firefighters, etc. The work they do is important, but so is the work we do in the state house. Incidentally, all of these public employees have pensions which are the same or better than legislative pensions.
I agree that our legislators are not overpaid compared to the private sector. But I also think that in a time of budget deficits and cuts, it’s a very awkward time for legislators to be voting themselves a pay raise. I’d like to see some of the VERY HIGHLY PAID state employees, like the head of the University of Massachusetts, take a big pay cut – they shouldn’t be earning more than the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth.
Thank you for the carefully written post.
I appreciate your service but do not support the increases. If it is “service” why compare the pay to the private sector? There is no difficulty attracting candidates to political positions, so increasing the pay is unnecessary for that purpose. In fact, most legislators stay for multiple terms. I support term limits to attract a more candidates and enable a wider range of people to run for office.
I completely agree that there is no real comparison to the private sector. Public service offers emotional rewards that are not available in many private sector jobs.
I don’t support term limits — the effect of term limits is to assure that people with no understanding are in charge. I thought I understood the job when I ran for it, but I’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years and I’m still getting better.
We do need to offer adequate compensation if we are going to allow more people who want to serve to do so.
I fully support a pay raise for the government. Provided it is tied to a $15 minimum wage for the rest of us.
I do support continuing increase in the minimum wage.
My social security has not increased except for 4% last year and it looks like it will go down to cover health expense. Legislatures don’t need more money or if they do their increase should be proportional to social security increases or the increase in the minimum wage.
Very fair point. We should be adjusting legislative leadership compensation consistently. Amazingly, there has been no adjustment to the legislative leadership stipend since 1982.
As always, I am impressed by your sober explanation of complex issues, and I fully support your likely vote.
Strange words coming from a socialist, but all comes down to the market. The conceptual problem is that the utility of the role has multiple attributes: salary, personal satisfaction (which may mean for some the sense of making a difference, and for some the exercise of power, and for some a combination), and the hard to measure and socially unacceptable to mention social advantages that come from being an influential person. If many of you are attorneys, I guess the question is what the salary distribution of attorneys is, and how much money you should be asked to sacrifice because you are enjoying (or suffering) the other attributes.
Last I counted, roughly 1 in 4 legislators was an attorney. I don’t have hard data, but my impression is that it is a small minority of legislators who are able to really generate much income from outside work. I agree it comes down to the market and the question for taxpayers is whether they are happy enough with set of candidates that they are coming forward.
I’m on Social Security Disability, and I’ve just been notified I will be getting a .03% increase in my payment. I don’t think the public officials should get any more than that
I support pay increases but believe the same senior officials need to move to far greater transparency in the legislative process. Bills are often buried in committee and then surface for air hours before the session ends.
Thanks, Gary. In our new rules that we expect to adopt this year, bills will be have to reported much earlier in the process.
Increase should be proportionate to the amount of tax relief constituents enjoy. Decrease my taxes by 5%, give yourself a Fiver increase! Simple!
Not a fair trade. A 5% tax decrease would cost approximately $1 billion. These increases will cost approximately $1 million.
I do understand the spirit of the comment though — what is the public interest is the underlying question. It is not certain that the increases will help us retain better leaders and whether that might save you money, but they might.
I do not support these pay increases unless all Massachusetts residents receive a living wage. Most people do not get into government because of monetary incentives. They get into it because they want to serve. I’m a public servant with a Master’s degree, loads of debt, and I only make $60,000 a year. But it’s enough to live decently. I think we will have plenty of talented people who are willing to serve at the current rates.
One final thought: I find the increase in base pay less objectionable than the increases on the higher end. We should not be comparing public service to the private sector. We should simply provide enough for people to live decently but modestly. Most Massachusetts residents would consider $250,000 rich. We do not need to provide that standard of living for the Governor. By the standards of the 1%, this is a pittance, but it sends the wrong message to raise salaries when so many in our society do not even make a living wage.
Thanks, Sam. I definitely support a living wage for all.
I tend to agree that the high end number is a little high. We may bring that down some in the final vote.
A portion of our newest President’s inaugural speech expresses my views on government pay better than any other:
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital [include state government here] has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
I recommend a $100,000 reduction of all state politician salaries. They would then not keep running for re-election and open government up to THE WORKING MAN, as the founders envisioned.
Got it. I get the perception that this is people helping themselves and from that perspective I’m uncomfortable with it. But I think the right question is what is good for the public in the long run and I don’t think a government of volunteers is what we want. We need some people can stick around long enough to figure out the jobs.
I fully endorse a much much higher salary for our elected legislators. Immensely gifted, highly educated and productive individuals such as Senator Brownsberger are working for a fraction of their worth and exponentially less than a position with such impact on our lives should command. The suggested increase is a pittance and I hope the beginning of a restructured appreciation for the product delivered. We must avoid losing our best minds in government to the imperative of financial survival.
According to the Globe, “the proposed increase for the speaker and senate president would make them the nation’s highest-paid state legislative leaders.”
That sound right to you?
The real issue here for me is that the structure governing pay increases is inherently corrupt. Nobody should be voting on their own salaries, and certainly not if those increases are going to take place in the same session as the vote authorizing them.
What’s right might not be possible, given the cost of angering the leadership, but it is clear enough to me: no raises until the mechanism for awarding them is reformed. Otherwise the incentives are the inverse of what they should be.
I’m actually OK with the numbers coming out on top, Fred — these numbers only get adjusted every few decades and that means that the most recently adjusted people are going to be near the top.
I can see the point about voting for numbers to take effect in the next session but I’m not sure that really changes the reality much — many of the same people will be in place.
Although this is not the most propitious time to consider pay raises in view of the national climate and especially the extraordinary and in some cases questionable wealth concentrated in the new Presidential cabinet and Federal agency picks, I agree with you that there is no “propitious” time. Your reasoning is persuasive. I greatly admire and trust your thoughtfulness and judgment on all matters, Senator, and so I support your position on this one. I do question the AMOUNT of the increases, and suggest they be subject to further review before being voted on.
Thank you, Susan, the amounts will be subject to further review.
absolutely should vote for the increase,which is really too small! We need to incentivize persons to go in to public service!
The increases are a no brainer for all the reasons you articulated above. These positions need to be filled by capable individuals as opposed to any willing but inexperienced , and or unqualified citizen.
All legislators’ salaries should be increased about 50%, I think. Doubling them would be reasonable, but politically unpalatable. The recommended increases for the major executive offices are about right.
I am not too concerned about the dynamics in the Senate, which I respect. I have little respect for our four most recent speakers of the House, however, and am very concerned about how the House operates. The compensation commission seems to recommend raises primarily for leadership. Presumably that would increase the speaker’s power and encourage Mr. DeLeo to stay longer? (I doubt we can expect him to return to his original promise to limit his term as speaker….)
Mr. Brownsberger, I do not begrudge you the pittance of extra pay you earn or will earn as a committee chair, but I think all senators and representatives should receive the same pay—without the extra stipends for chairs. Low pay and stipends are part and parcel of the undemocratic, authoritarian tradition of the House—and a risk in the Senate, as well. Do we want committee chairs that care so little for the work of the committee they’ve been asked to chair that they won’t do it unless they are paid a few thousand dollars extra? Increased status and power and increased access to the additional staff who work with committees is more than sufficient reward for any legislator who truly wants to do more to serve the people as a committee chair to serve.
As always, thank you for your very perceptive, detailed analysis of this issue, for your straighforwardness, and for reaching out to your constituents and the public for feedback.
I agree that there are intrinsic rewards in leadership positions, but the truth is that busy committee chairmanships really are demanding jobs (if done right). And when one accepts the additional responsibilities, one retains the basic responsibilities of representing one’s district. What can be a 24/7 job already becomes a much higher stress 24/7 job. I am OK with material additional compensation for leadership roles. I think the authority dynamics of how the institutions run is very separate from the compensation structure. The most important way that leaders can reward or punish members is by moving or not moving their bills. The money is very secondary.
High-level State officials (and federal) are notoriously underpaid – compared to what could be earned in the private sector. Theoretically, if we pay them more, we would attract a higher caliber of applicant and make the position appealing to a broader range of folks. (This statement does not apply to jobs which lack a real function -such as the Governor’s Council- and do not require real talents.
Sacrifices?! What sacrifices have you (elected officials) made? You all know what the job pays before you get it. If you don’t like it or you think you are worth more, then go work in the “Dreaded Private Sector”. Living off the taxpayers for life is not right. neither is voting yourselves pay raises and benefits that we pay for and have no say over. The entire state legislature should be part time work anyway. Fund your own retirements and make your pensions taxable, the state could really use the revenue . And if, like many of the taxpayers, you have to work two jobs to make ends meet then so be it. Term Limits Now!
Thanks, Paul. I loved the private sector and the only reason I can afford at all to serve now is that I started in the private sector.
I do disagree with the statement that the legislature should be part time. In a part time legislature, the legislators are less able to understand the issues and practical authority devolves to unaccountable appointed employees. That is not an improvement.
I think that the commission’s analysis is sound and I therefore support the proposed pay raises. I suggest that a provision be adopted to have these salaries rise and fall going forward in line with median household income or some other appropriate measure to reduce the likelihood of our having to address this matter again any time soon.
The root issue at stake in representative pay is two-fold, as I see it: (a) is the pay a livable wage by realistic local standards, and (b) is it a wage that is sufficient to encourage people to pursue the position without being so high as to risk fostering corruption or greed. Anything less than a six figure salary strikes me as passing both of those standards. I would even support a low six figure salary for all legislators.
I support the commission’s recommended pay increases for state officials since it is essential that we recruit and retain “skilled leaders” to govern our commonwealth. Public officials are critical in allocating the limited fiscal resources that are needed to provide essential services to folks living in our state. We need the best among us to serve in government. Doesn’t always happen, but that should be the goal.
Thanks for the very reasonable presentation of the commission report.
I will be happy with your support of the proposal.
Go for them
I support a base pay increase for legislators (current pay is too low), with two caveats. First, it should be balanced by increased limits on lobbying when the legislator returns to the private sector. Second, it should be more closely tied to work accomplished than a nebulous industry standard. From the outside it appears that the legislature gets very little actually done. That may not be true, but without a better accounting for time and effort and output generated, it’s hard to assess whether or not a raise is warranted.
Thanks, Mike. I agree that there is no good industry standard.
The volume of the legislature’s productivity goes up and down and certainly is hard to assess from outside.
I think the right questions to ask are whether we are getting the candidates we want and whether the financial pressures on those who choose to serve are manageable.
I am a retiree and I live on Social Security. This year my Social Security check is less than it was last year. Why should the fat cats state elected officials get lavish pay increases. In fact they should cut their pay just like the rest of us poor folks.
Nick, just two points: First, legislators do see their base pay drop by formula when income goes down. Social security has never seen a negative cost-of-living movement. Second, as for the leadership stipends, they have not been adjusted since 1982 — from 1982 to 2016, there were 30 increases in social security (cost of living increases were zero in only three years). Cumulatively, social security recipients received an increase of 133% during this period
I recognize that many committee chairs put a lot of time into their posts, including you, Will. However, the committee chairmanships and other leadership posts are entirely controlled by the leadership and are therefore little more than rewards (dare I say bribes) for voting in lock-step. I’d prefer a higher pay for each rep and little or no increase for committee chairs, majority/minority leader, etc.
I’ve been hearing the chair assignments called legalized bribery for the 45 years I’ve lived in MA. I’m used to political overstatement, but I’d like to hear more from Will on this specific point; IIRC the national legislature manages without bonuses for chairs. What would be the effect of eliminating these bonuses, and possibly providing more staff for the leadership instead of paying them more.
For better or worse, the base pay is pretty much set in stone by the constitutional amendment. And as I noted in an earlier comment, the real mechanism of control that leadership owns is not the money, but the ability to control the agenda. Legislators get fulfillment from making a difference through legislation. They are entirely dependent on leadership cooperation to make that happen.
Vote in favor. The report is comprehensive and fair.
I disagree with increasing the pay of our legislators. Being a politician shouldn’t be a career. I believe these politicians with 25+ years in office lose touch with the problems that regular citizens deal with. The current pay is adequate while you serve your time and move on, letting other people come in with a fresh new ideas.
I get that. There is certainly a time for everyone to move on. But, in my experience, these jobs have a very long learning curve — certainly, I’m still learning. I am not a fan of high legislative turnover. What that means is in practice is that no one knows what they are doing, or alternatively, all the expertise resides in employees who are not accountable to the voters.
so I get a 3% increase in my Social Security check which is eaten up by an increase in my Medicare increase, and I’m being tolde that $150,000- $58,000 plus perks, will be increased to $250,000- $62,000 plus perks, because it’s harder now to live on the former, but I should be able to get by on what I receive because my struggle isn’t as difficult. A reality check please
Got it. I completely agree that no elected official should be complaining. The question is beyond that — it is about what level of compensation will is most likely to lead to healthy functioning of these important institutions.
Under normal circumstances, I have no problem with elected officials receiving a pay increase, however, the fact that the Middle Class is shrinking while the minimum wage/part-time Working poor is growing, coupled with the fact that the Very Wealthy have bought a sufficient number of elected politicians who then cut taxes on the Very Wealthy, means that the increasing financial burden on what is left of the Middle Class will eventually lead to the complete elimination of the Middle Class.
I don’t think Massachusetts legislators are, as a group, beholden to the very wealthy.
No. No way.
I urged you to support the commission’s recommendations. The pay levels proposed do not seem at all excessive. And like several other comments, I would like to see an increase in pay for all legislators.
Government is a big business that is important and has major financial responsibilities to all citizens of Massachusetts. Running it with decision makers who are being paid less than they are able to earn in private sector puts major pressure on these decision makers to enhance their incomes by using their position to leverage outside opportunities. This often results in divided loyalties between these opportunities and their position in government. I would prefer that the legislature make it unnecessary and senior decision makers be required to only serve the citizens of Massachusetts. A start would be to pay Senior decision makers in the executive and legislature more, but make it very difficult for them to have outside interests that they could advantage for profit.
Just paying more without some reforms to the issue of divided loyalties, and economic incentives and how lobbying is conducted is not defensible. There needs to be more sunlight put on how and who is getting and receiving direct and indirect benefit from government decisions. Not everyone is as publicly minded as I think you are. The question is not to pay more but to get better decision making by the governmental process for the citizens of Massachusetts.
I think that relieving financial pressure on legislative leaders is, in itself, conducive to more independence. They lobbying changes are a very complicated mixed bag and that conversation will continue.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
I would hope most of our legislators have your point of view.
My understanding is many legislators have other work. If that is the case, pay increases are not needed.
From a cynical point of view, many legislators use public service as a stepping stone to much larger incomes when no longer serving.
That needs to stop.
HI Joel, I don’t have hard data, but my impression based on many conversations and on some review of available published data is that most of my colleagues do not make much outside — the job is too demanding to allow that for most.
I’m all for increasing pay as long as it is tied to performance. The fundamental flaw of just increasing salaries is that it shifts the incentive to getting the job vs. doing the job well or even doing the job at all. For the most part, people don’t get into Government for the pay, it’s more of a combination of service and power. Power that can be parlayed down the line with a lobbying / speaking position i.e., Bill Weld and Deval Patrick haven’t been exactly hurting since leaving office and I don’t think anyone is worried about Obama making ends meet.
To provide a better alignment with constituents, how about a Contract with Constituents concept where each elected official’s constituents vote on a limited number (3-6) projects / goals for each year and there are bonus payments associated with them. It’s the same way Boards agree with executives on what their goals are for the upcoming year. With the availability of technology these days, this can be easily accomplished. The bonus payments would go into their pensions/escrow and vest over a period of years subject to clawbacks if things don’t go well.
We should also extend the same concept to state agencies and what they accomplish. i.e., I’ve been trying to get DCR to clean up the homeless debris under the Bowker with a less than spectacular response, to the extent something is accomplished, they get stars similar to an uber app which will be tied to year end bonuses.
Furthermore, to better tie alignment, I think that taxpayers should be able to vote a small % of their tax dollars (5-10%) on initiatives that they value be it safety, infrastructure, education, etc. that cannot be reallocated during budget acrobatics. While I understand the need to a tax base, without a say over how our tax dollars are spent there’s a significant gap in accountability.
I understand your frustrations around the Bowker!
Well as a retiree living on SS and a very small pension I take once a year, I can appreciate budgeting. I do not think the recommendations here are outrageous and agree they can be supported by your vote. Yes lots of people are hurting and the middle class seems almost non-existent when we see present day housing costs in Greater Boston, and the differences between wage earners and CEO’s that is criminal in my view. But that should not all be on the States Constitutional officers.
NO! Take the same 2% raise that most of us get. People should go into politics, not for the money, but for the desire to serve. Too many people are out of work or being paid way too little. When everyone is living above the poverty level, you may have your raises.
Hey Andrea, got it. I should have made clear that the legislative leadership stipend has not increased since 1982.
I support an increased in pay if earned by increased accountability. Having power, influence, celebrity, and prestige is more than enough of a value that justifies a salary lower for comparable work in the private sector. So, on its face I do not support a pay raise.
However, I would support it if the legislature “earned” the raise by making a significant horse-trade with the public: pass an expanded transparency bill that finally applies both the Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Law to the legislature. As of now, your branch has been and continues to make itself exempt.
I am OK that the salaries should be below the private sector — the main point of the comparison is that even with some increase they will remain dramatically below the private sector. I don’t think the horse trade you suggest is meaningful, ut I do agree that if legislative leaders receive an increase that will put salutory pressure on all of us to perform better.
I agree with most of the report. I also don’t find a problem with your increase in salary, benefits.
While I would concur with most of the report’s suggestions, I am troubled by the enormous percentage increase in the Governor’s salary. I also wonder whether a provision might be included to prevent ‘high net worth’ individuals from accepting salaries–it seems wrong for taxpayers to pay salaries to those who have already unduly or at least disproportionately benefited from our economic activity. Of course defining ‘high net worth’ might be a sticking point.
Generally “high net worth” individuals do decline salary. The Governor has said he will decline the salary. Declining compensation is a great talking point for a candidate and those who can afford to do so generally do.
of course you will support the increase,along with all the additional l future benefits of generous retirement,maybe cola,etc.,etc.
I wholeheartedly support the recommendations. However I find it odd that you would have to vote on your own pay increase.
See summary comment posted above — I’m not voting on my own per se, but rather on the compensation structure of the institution. A slight but important distinction.
By you, I meant the legislators as a whole. Sorry for not making that clear.
Senator Brownsberger, if anyone deserves a pay raise, you do. Your accessibility, responsiveness, and dedicated service to your constituents are a shining example for all in public office.
Thank you, truly, but I’ve come to feel that is not the issue in this decision — it’s about how the institution will best functions.
I support the increases. If our elected officials cannot make a living on their salaries, we will only be represented by the independently wealthy or those who have outside sources of income which risk conflict of interests.
Very important point. And often the independently wealthy have no particular understanding of the job of governing. Having made their money in a different field, they have valuable expertise, but that expertise may not be at all relevant to their government job — some in the new President’s cabinet come to mind.
Adjustments like this keep the average constituent cynical. How many citizens of the Commonwealth can expect double-digit salary increases?
Yes, but how many citizens have not had a raise since 1982 — that’s when the legislative leadership stipend was last adjusted. Legislative base pay has gone up during that period, but the compensation for leadership has eroded substantially.
When I worked in industry getting a pay raise was not automatic it usually required a job review or project completion review. Showing up and hard work equaled a reward. With Beacon Hills record and the condition of certain areas of the state, ie the T, schools; I believe this vote to give out pay increases does not compute.
Fair point, certainly debatable, but keeping pay low is not a way to get the people in place who can do a better job. The review process for elected official is election day.
I think all house members should be paid the same rate. A case can be made for per-diem when the added expenses are justified. But seeing the performance of Mr. Speaker, he is not worth his salt. my opinion of the Senate is higher, though. The case of pay being low, well that should drive behavior to lower living cost in the commonwealth. As for the governor this not royalty, an expense account should cover his business expenses so he does not need to absorb the cost of state junkets when they are justified.
This shouldn’t be about one’s opinion positive or negative about any one individual. It’s about putting in place a compensation structure that makes sense for the institution.
I am 100% in favor of giving our elected officials competitive salaries granted that they also have a two term limit in office. Both of these will encourage qualified non-career politicians to contribute to running a government of the people.
A pay raise should be based on how well you do your job. If the standard in MA is a 2% pay raise to follow the cost of living that is one thing but maybe the rest should be on achievements. Also there is a generous pension plan that comes with the job that should be looked at.
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