Legislative Pay Increase

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.

So, it is with real ambivalence that I contemplate a pay increase that could benefit me personally. But, for all the reasons that the commission cited, I am likely to support the recommendations.

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.

To see the final package the legislature is actually voting on — please go to this link.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

289 replies on “Legislative Pay Increase”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. I fully support a pay raise for the government. Provided it is tied to a $15 minimum wage for the rest of us.

  4. 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.

  5. As always, I am impressed by your sober explanation of complex issues, and I fully support your likely vote.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. Increase should be proportionate to the amount of tax relief constituents enjoy. Decrease my taxes by 5%, give yourself a Fiver increase! Simple!

    1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. absolutely should vote for the increase,which is really too small! We need to incentivize persons to go in to public service!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

    1. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. Thanks for the very reasonable presentation of the commission report.

    I will be happy with your support of the proposal.

  24. 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.

    1. 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.

  25. 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.

    1. 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

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  27. 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.

    1. 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.

  28. 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

    1. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

    1. 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.

  32. 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.

    1. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

    1. 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.

  37. I agree with most of the report. I also don’t find a problem with your increase in salary, benefits.

  38. 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.

    1. 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.

  39. of course you will support the increase,along with all the additional l future benefits of generous retirement,maybe cola,etc.,etc.

  40. Dear Will,

    I wholeheartedly support the recommendations. However I find it odd that you would have to vote on your own pay increase.


  41. 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.

  42. 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.

    1. 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.

  43. Adjustments like this keep the average constituent cynical. How many citizens of the Commonwealth can expect double-digit salary increases?

    1. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. I am all for pay increases for most workers. The only thing is that before the senior people receive raises, I would like to know that every staff person or non-senior person is receiving a living wage. Too many people cannot afford to live on their full-time wages or are not even hired as full-time employees. The other matter is that all of your senior people can and, very likely do, earn a considerable amount of extra annual income by lecturing. They can do that if they choose to, am I right? So, for example, if the governor earns $500,000 for speaking fees annually, what does he need with a quarter of a million dollars salary? I do understand the importance of attracting good people to serve in government positions by offering a decent salary, but this is not for entry level positions. Most of us start at the bottom and work our way up the ladder. Furthermore, there are more teachers than politicians and we need to attract excellent people to teaching, too. I’d rather increase the pay of our teachers to attract outstanding educators to teach in our public schools. We need to start preparing our children for the future by hiring the best and the brightest — this is the group that chooses not to teach in order to make more money. Who can blame them? So, no, I’d prefer to let the senior politicians continue to make their current decent salaries and let them continue to earn money by lecturing, etc., because their political position allows them to do that.

  49. No way pay increase using public money. The increase should go for the school lunch monitor, for the Janitors in the school, for veterans. I feel this is another way to spit in the face to the people who really poor and in really need.

  50. Hi Senator, Thank you again for seeking input for your vote. I have no problem with the raises except the two largest: The $70,000 increase each for the House Speaker and Senate President. That’s more than a lot of folks make in a year. And, yes, they both are low paid for their responsible positions? Seems like money grubbing rather than a boost for a job well done.
    And their is another factor: When these powerful folks (Senate President and House Speaker) retire they generally have a campaign fund with hundreds of thousands of unspent dollars. This money was given to them because of their positions, not necessarily because of their productivity or sterling characters. They hoard the boodle and then spend it for meals, car rentals and other costs associated with being a former politician.

    Before giving these two gentlemen another 70 grand a year, how about some data on how much money their predecessors had ‘left over’ when they left office. Thank you.

    1. The big jump is a result of the fact that they haven’t had an increase in their leadership stipend since 1982.

      Some do leave with money in their account, but it is hard for them to legally spend it on anything other than charity and future elected runs. When they are not in office or seeking office, they cannot use it for meals, etc. There is no law that allows spending on being a “former politician”.

  51. With all the dissension in the state and country, I do not believe this compensation should be approved. In particular, it does not seem that people whose major criteria is compensation for running for office. The biggest problem I have with this increase is that it prolongs the present emphasis on money instead of creating a better life for our citizens.

    I fail to have seen any correlation between political salaries and voting for the best interests of the citizens.

    1. Marcia, I share your concern about how this plays into current feeling, and I agree that people shouldn’t be running for office to get rich. No one in their right mind would, even with these increases. But we don’t want low compensation to be barrier to people who are not independently wealthy but do have responsibilities as in families.

  52. Some of the pay raises seem way too high. I see the point that the positions pay less than comparable ones but still- they were filled for those salaries. If they didn’t like the salaries they shouldn’t have applied.
    I am not against raises but they should be comparable to the rest of the state. I’m a government employee and I got something like 2.24%. This is what most people have to look forward to and it just isn’t fair. I work at the railroad retirement board and I have t explain to retirees that their COL increase was less than half of 1%. It’s just ridiculous. Thanks for your time and I appreciate you asking for feedback.

  53. When so many folks are only getting a 1% -3% for a pay raise, the raises for the Governor, Speaker are too high.

    When the Higher Ed people bargain for a contract and then they have to fight all over again to get it funded, just frosts me. I don’t want to hear how their have to be cuts but you vote for such a large pay raise makes me shake my head.

  54. I support the increases, although I think they should be somewhat lower for the House Speaker and Senate President. Serving in the state legislature is an important job that people should receive competitive compensation for, but that does need to be balanced with other needs of the state.

  55. At a time when the minimum wage is still only $11, it seems like these pay increases, putting our elected officials way over the average $55,000 a year that salaried folks take home, is a bit much. We are the one who pay those salaries and we are not getting nearly what they are.

  56. I support the modest increases and changes for the regular legislators and committee chairmen, where the theory is that they could do some other work on the side, e.g. as a lawyer. For the governor, Speaker, and Senate President, is the theory with these new salaries that they are working full time for the State? If so, if these large increases go through, they should not be allowed to earn money on the side.

  57. I oppose the increases for Senate Speaker and President. They seem quite excessive. If their main interest is profit-making, they should go into the private sector instead of using government position for that purpose.

  58. Where would this money come from? It should be based on performance like profit sharing e.g. If you guys hit balanced budget or surplus would be percentage. If their is a deficit no raise. And then tie a small percentage based on constant currency.

    1. The raises are well under 0.01% of the budget. We don’t do profit sharing — that would result in the ridiculous 8-figure payouts that you see private sector executives pocketing. These raises are tiny fractions of what happens in the private sector.

  59. It is called Public Service. It is not called career opportunity. I have some questions. How many days do the Legislators work in a year? By that I mean coming into the State House. I know some attend local meeting at night in their districts. That is not work that is campaigning. What do they pay for Medical insurance and what is the quality of their coverage? What do they pay towards their retirement and what do they get when they retire? How much of their campaign funds are used for living expenses? There is a loophole there. One example is they can write of a rental car and use it for every day use. I will not even mention lunch and dinner that they can write of. All they have to do is say it had to do with being reelected.

    1. I agree that public elected service should be lower paid than the private sector — most of us are there for the right reasons, patriotism, not greed. And legislators do get health care and pension eligibility at the same level as the lower tier state employees (lower than police and fire). But the question to consider is, adding that up, are enough people able to afford to serve: Are state ballots adequately competitive?

  60. Interesting reading/reviewing of the +/-91 page document and the firms used to research this data. Comparing private versus public is similar in ways to private versus public education/schools at all levels. There are allowances these positions are granted. Yes I agree with email reading pros and cons to the pay raises including how many others have a cost of living raise. Again I do not think it should be comparison as an overriding decision factor rather the quality of the work. I think the increases are well earned. Recently an executive in the private sector was asked what keeps him awake at night. I was sharing this with non-business folks and said this is often business meeting content/rhetoric. In a nutshell I think the positions involve many hours of thinking and support the raises.

  61. your perspective is much appreciated
    (as always). Given these facts and observations, I fully support the proposed increases, with the caveats thaT all other staff/support be paid a living wage, and that the top positions be term-limited.

  62. I am absolutely shocked that those we have elected to represent us are paid so poorly. Were these corporate executives with a small percent of the responsibility they’d be paid far greater, have stock options, cars, and grand expense accounts. How on Earth do we get good people to run when making secretary wages. Yes! Please! Accept my endorsement for raises and apologies that you have made so little for so long for the incredible work you do!

  63. Will, this is probably an exceptionally good time to say Thank You! for your long service to Belmont and our Commonwealth.

    Like others who have responded to your question, I’m shocked at how low your salary is. I am all for increasing the compensation for legislators, and will take your word for the compensation due to the Senate President and Speaker.

    The only proposal that gives me pause is the increase for the Governor. In my mind, there’s something about going over $200,000 that makes me uneasy.

    Can the proposal be amended? Or do you have to just vote to approve or disapprove of the proposed increases?

  64. First, I appreciate you asking for opinions on this topic the same as you do any others.
    I do not believe the state legislature needs a pay raise. They make more money than most people I know and while I believe they work hard they do not work harder than the average person who makes far less than they do. In the midst of budget difficulties this is not the time for people who already make a lot of money to give themselves more. Take the amount this pay raise would cost and ask any school principal what s/he could do with that money in their school. Thank you.

    1. I think comparisons are sort of irrelevant. The question is whether we are getting the candidates we need. But, it is a safe bet that almost every school principal in the state makes much more than every legislator in the state.

  65. I am in full agreement with pay raises for legislators as you describe them. You are all public servants, and we owe you a debt of gratitude, as well as much more compensation than your current salaries!

  66. If legislators worked full time and held session for a full year. Than they deserve the raise. But the session is not for a full year. Bills are held to the last minute. The system needs improvement and represent the people more in my opinion

  67. Thanks so much, Senator, for this typically upfront, honest assessment. My own reactions: 1) the base pay is surprisingly low, and modest even with stipends. But with budget cuts in some valuable services, I would encourage the legislature (and governor) to tap more of the state’s vast private wealth so that pay increases don’t come at the expense of other needs. Support for next year’s ‘millionaire tax’ amendment and/or other revenue increases should be part of every legislator’s support for these increases. 2) You’re clearly right about leadership roles and private sector equivalence (or lack thereof). I would suggest a graduated approach to those increases though, as the sticker shock for these increases is considerable for this voter, even while I agree with the rationales.

    Hope that helps–and good luck with this hot potato!

    Brent Whelan

    1. Thanks, Brent. We’ll consider how to control the sticker shock. One point — these pay increases will not involve any new appropriations this year, although they will affect budgetary base in the next year.

  68. When the state is in the black then it would be the time to think of pay raises.
    Pensions for officials is way out of line with the real world. IE Billy Bulger getting over $325,000 as a pension

  69. The amount of increase, whether deserved or not, seems slightly obscene.

    At any rate, thank you for your hard work.
    –David Levitt

  70. I am totally opposed to this proposed pay raise. If anything, there should be no additional pay for committee chairs, the speaker, etc.

  71. I think the Governor’s proposed salary of $250,000 is a little high considering the perks of the office–housing, transportation, plus increasingly these career politicians/public servants have healthy portfolios by the time they reach the highest offices in the state. I don’t think the governor is worth so much more than other top legislators for whom you are proposing $175,000. S/he’s the Governor, not the Ruler! I think $200,000 is more than enough of a raise. Thank you.

  72. I am fine with the raises for all the reasons that you state, but the pension implications are worrisome. Make provisions for limiting the payout for these positions – tie them to current salaries, which will still result in generous retirement benefits.

  73. Public service is an under-appreciated and generally underpaid profession. I appreciate your informative letter as well as your upfront acknowledgement of support of raises for the tier of leaders you reference.

    I also appreciate that you listed your own income from your public service…and yes, i know that it is below what you’re worth at ‘market rates’.

    Your emails re ongoing legislative matters demonstrate your effort to make government transparent and gives me a chance to weigh with more insight than I’ve ever had before.

    In order to be good at this and not ground down with the demands of the job, you have to have an appetite for public service and find your rewards for it where you may. I believe that you understand that.

    This is not a 40 hour 9 to 5 kind of job. it’s time consuming and way more demanding that people think.

    I recommend you support the legislative pay increase and hope you stay with us for a long time.

  74. I support the rank-and-file raises. I am troubled by the huge hike to the Senate Pres and the Speaker The pension cost of the Speaker’s high-3 will be huge. I suppose it’s a fair salary but it’s another example why governors and leadership should stop playing games. Speaking of games–I thought legislators could vote for increases effective in their then-current term. How is that being managed? You will get no quibble from me if you vote for the package, but it’s crazy it comes to this.

  75. Hi Will,
    Amazing march today!!
    The actual dollar increases seem reasonable, It is however not appropriate or reasonable to use now bloated private sector salaries as a benchmark for public service positions. My concern and question are – what will we have to defund to in order to fund these pay increases? Would appreciate your feedback on the likely particulars. Thanks, Tedd

    1. Thanks, Tedd. Agreed — only point in the private sector comparison is to make clear that the difference will remain huge after the increases. Nothing else defunded. A very slight increase in future year pressures (0.01%). Regarding pensions, the legislature participates in the state pension plan on substantially the same terms as other non-public-safety public employees. For much more about the state pension system, please visit this link.

  76. I appreciate how uncomfortable you may feel recommending a pay raise for folks that include yourself, but please don’t hesitate. The amount of the raise is negligible relative to the overall scheme of things in the state budget, and I think you in particular well deserve it.

  77. The make up of the commission that made these recommendations is impressive. All of the increases sound reasonable, except for the huge one for the gover-nor, plus a housing allowance. Compar-ing it with the private sector, where so many executives are over paid, does not seem appropriate. The increases to all legislators are justifiable. I have always admired your diligence as our senator while receiving such a modest salary. So I think you certainly de-serve an increase.

  78. It would be interesting to compare the experience of NH legislators whose
    compensation is I believe extremely minimal (not a livable wage) compared to those from MA.

    1. Daniel, nothing wrong with comparisons to get more data. That said, not sure if it’s a viable comparison as the size of the NH legislature is significantly larger than the Massachusetts legislator, therefore each representative holds less power and represents a smaller % of the population. That setup is probably a whole ‘nother rabbit hole for a discussion to go into.

  79. I am glad to hear that acting on the commission’s report was postponed from the start of the 2015-2016 session when state had deep budget cuts to the present time. It’s also nice to hear that the commission included two from academia as well two from the private sector. In addition it is good to see that constituents’ thoughts about this topic is sought.

    After looking at the appendix of the commission’s report that compares the salaries of the legislature and state constitutional officers with those of comparable positions in the private sector, I support the increases recommended by the commission. My only concern is with the statutory per diem payment for each day legislators travel to the state house.

    To be more specific, I am concerned that abolishing the per diem concept in exchange for an increase in the expense allowance could result in a net decrease for the most distant legislators. Can legislators who commute over a certain number of miles be given the choice of either keeping the per diem concept or instead an increase in the expense allowance?

    Even a slight net decrease for legislators travelling among the greatest distances does not seem logical. I wonder what the commission would have to say regarding this?

    1. Thanks, Donna, I think we do have to get rid of the per diem outright. I’m pretty sure no one is being asked to take a big cut, although I don’t know how it works for all the House members. The point is that the increase is limited.

  80. Hi Will,
    I support the increases that were proposed.
    Over the years, I have come to know and respect the workload of those in office.
    Many are not aware that these are 24/7 jobs.
    I hope they are approved.
    I might add that you are one of the glaring good examples of a very fine legislator!
    John Airasian

  81. I support pay raises for good work. But you have to understand, I am disabled and struggling to live on 849.39 per month on SSI. We received a 2.00 raise this January of 2017. Two dollars a MONTH!
    It would be easier to support pay raises for them if THEY supported a raise for the POOR. The US poverty level is 27,000.year. We suffer on less than 11,000. year. It’s immoral!

  82. I concur with the December 1, 2014 report. If one is going to serve in any of these Massachusetts elected offices,
    he/she deserves a living wage.

  83. I support the increase, and here’s why:

    I worked for 3 months at a bureau at DPH in 2012. I had to quit because it was a hostile work environment. I learned that for the previous 2 years, it had been run by some completely incompetent people.

    The reason was that the salary for running this bureau was about the salary you quoted – about $74,000. It really needed to be double that to attract people with experience.

    These incompetent leaders devastated this bureau by all accounts. The bad leaders eventually left, but it will be impossible to bring back this historical bureau to the high-functioning level it was. The people there are all PTSD after these leaders’ horrible actions for years.

    In order to attract competent people to do such a strenuous leadership job, we really need to have leadership salaries that at least try to keep pace with the low end of the private sector, or we risk destroying our government.

    Thanks for asking our opinion!


  84. I want my elected representatives to commit fully to this job and receive a fair wage so they don’t have to work a second job. I want this for all the citizens of Massachusetts. If you support these pay raises I hope you will be open and fervent (and not ambivalent!) about supporting living wage, child care, commuter transportation, and employer-supported leave. I will support your pay raise.

    1. Thanks, Priscilla, I am supportive of all of these things, but I don’t want to suggest a trade on this. It’s not about my raise. If it were just me, I’d avoid the headache of explaining and just say no. It is a larger question of the compensation structure of the institution.

  85. I would support these increases for most of the rank and file, but I do question the need for such a large pay increase for the governor. I am also uncomfortable going over $200K for that position, which is not one where pay scale is the primary draw in seeking candidates. The highest governor’s salary in 2016 was $190,823 (Pennsylvania). If we are also providing a housing allowance for the governor, I question the salary increase.

    1. To make it clear, the $250,000 is:

      185,000 salary + 65,000 housing allowance.

      There is not a housing allowance on top of the salary.

  86. I suggest that this be put to the people of the commonwealth in a ballot initiative for 2018. It doesn’t seem fit to vote for your own pay increase.

    This would give the people the opportunity to reflect on how the ballot initiative we passed this November (Question #4) was passed, then delayed by our representatives, and now is being actively watered down to the point of being an insult to the people’s will.

    I think we will remember how our will was respected and then give your pay increase ballot initiative equal respect.

  87. I support the pay raises because I feel it keeps the best qualified able to serve in government.

  88. Two points Will

    1. Seems like there is already in place a mechanism to keep legislative pay equitable. Why change now?

    2. If pay levels are uncompetitive then we should see the data – and we should see total Comp data meaning benefits and pension etc. Public companies are required to show this type of information info when asking shareholders to approve changes in pay why don’t legislators?

    1. That’s the problem there really isn’t a good mechanism, Tom. The legislative leadership stipends haven’t been updated since 1982. The package would bring them into line and then create a mechanism for adjusting them.

      You are quite right that there are other compensation elements, but they are, in major respects, those that are provided to all clerical state employees. These benefits are well documented on this website and on official sites.

  89. Legislative raises should be tied to tax cuts and cuts in the size of state government.

  90. I would support an even larger rise in the “Expense Allowance”, with a catch. Charge market rate for parking at the State House. This who choose to drive will have their parking fee paid by my “even larger” rise in the Expense Allowance. But legislators who – like Gov Mike Dukakis – take the (T) to work won’t be paying to park, and can pocket the net savings.

    This is fair and equitable. It’s how other people get to work. Some people have no reasonable choice except to drive – and that’s why I propose something cost neutral. Others have a choice, but won’t be motivated to truly evaluate that choice without the proper price signals.

    As we try to slow global warming caused by greenhouse gases, it’s important to note that the largest CO2 emitter in MA is the transportation sector, and single occupancy car commuters are a big contributor to this. Simultaneously, our public transit is chronically unfunded. Perhaps if more state legislators took the (T) there would be better decisions made about it’s funding.

    Thanks for your hard work representing us.

  91. Will,
    I believe these salary increases are essential if we wish to attract & retain sophisticated, dedicated public sector professionals who are interested in the governance of this complex State. Since there has been a careful review by the Commission I fully support the pay increase. Your work on our behalf has been exemplary & a pay raise is how the people aim to retain legislators such as you !

  92. There is no question in my mind that supporting this measure is the right thing to do. Thanks for setting a good example of commitment to public service. Finding satisfaction in life beats chasing money once you have enough to have an adequate life style. I guess everyone’s idea of adequate is different, but I can respect yours.

  93. It behooves me to wonder why any legislator would want to ‘serve-the public’, if they feel that they are under-paid. First, why does it matter what other states are doing? Second, there are indeed many people, the majority of people who are working from paycheck to paycheck. Just because the prices are always increasing for goods and services, doesn’t get us a ‘pay-raise’ at work. Third, if any legislator can’t get ‘by-on-what-they-make’ now, then resign and get a job at some company willing to pay what you want to be paid. And finally, from the earliest of times, legislators are ‘public servants’. They are to make the lives of the public better, not worse. Ever wonder where the money comes from for these increases? Yup, from the public in the form of higher taxes. I always had the notion that a legislator wanted to be of service to the public and not to be elected to public office to get ‘richer’ and further their political career. This is a thought for all legislators to think about. Thanks for your consideration in this matter.

    1. All these points are well taken. Very few, if any, legislators run for office to improve their income. My impression from many conversations through the years is that legislators seek office for the right reasons. The question is whether we are getting enough people to take the plunge and to stay the course long enough to learn the job.

  94. I am opposed to another pay raise particularly given that the legislators received a COLA pay adjustment just this month. I find it extremely unfair to divert tax money from programs to help those in dire need (which is what this would necessarily do) to adequately paid people.

  95. I would only vote yes on this if there was change
    In state tax from a flat tax to a percentage tax to where the wealthiest pay the highest percentage
    Lower pay 5%
    Middle pay 7%
    Upper pay 9 %

  96. I would support this too Will. Thanks for doing so much for not much play. I really appreciate it and appreciate your honesty and the accurate info.

  97. Sorry will. Thank you for doing so much for so little PAY! Thank you for all the good you do for us.
    Cathy Couture

  98. These increases do not sound unreasonable. I do not think that pay is what attracts people to government service; it is either the will to effect change and serve constituents (I suspect in your case) or a yen for power. These pay increases will not make a difference in who runs for office, but I do wish we could do something about campaign finance, so that people without means could run for office.

  99. I support the recommendations of the communion, but I would like to add that increasing the salaries of elected officials, while necessary sometimes, should come with considerations for the financial needs of the states’ working class. While I know our state has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, I support the push to raise it to $15 per hour.

  100. Thank you for soliciting feedback on this issue. In general agree with your assessment of the situation and the recommendations of the commission except perhaps for the rather large increases for the most senior positions (especially Governor).

  101. Will,

    The salary increases are basically a market adjustment to ensure parity with other state leaders with a similar cost of living. This is done routinely in the private sector to attract and retain top level talent. I support the plan as proposed.

  102. I think the commonwealth profits by having talented people in office. I heartily support the raises for the top-level staff. I think the base salaries should be $90K.

  103. Will,

    Your summary was very informative. I agree that the job is more likely 24/7 for the dedicated, that attracting good people from the ‘private sector’ is a worthwhile endeavor, and that I don’t want public officials worrying about trying to make their own ends meet while at the same time under the stress and putting in the hard work in their position for the state. After reading your discussion on this and some of the replies, I am tentatively in favor of approval of the measure.

    I would like to see what the total dollar amount increase this would mean in the state budget. Actual dollars, and expressed as a percentage of the total state budget. Also, the same for the salaries that would change, in total. I.e. what’s the total for salaries for all legislators, elected state offices, including the governor, in dollars (after the change) and as a percentage of the total state budget.

    Just to put this into a better perspective, for everyone.

    One more thing. I am a bit wary of comparisons with the private sector. After all, here in the USA, the ‘private sector’ has a habit of paying executives and managers many times the rate of the worker at the “Lowest Rung” in the organization, when compared to other countries around the world. So, yes, we have to pay enough to attract good talent. However, I’d like to keep an eye on where we’re comparing our pay rates to privates sector rates that are clearly out of control. That said, clearly under $200K for the governor is not exorbitant, in my opinion. The bigger issue for me is when the MBTA pays over 1/3 of its employees over $100K, or they or other departments in state government that actively resist modernization, better management methods, proper outsourcing, etc. To me, that’s where the real money is spent. After that, it’s the medical industrial complex that is really taking us all to the cleaners, but that’s a topic for another day.

  104. You’d appreciate my thoughts.

    Appreciate this.

    WE WON.



    Your call.

  105. I am not supportive of the scale of increases proposed. Many others have indicated good reasons why to object to the proposed increases for the top 3 salaries. When proposing comparable salaries, it is more appropriate to compare their salaries to private nonprofit comparable positions. Public service should never be on par with corporate positions which as many noted are bloated and disproportionate to what people are earning at the lower end of the pay scale. If we had a living wage, affordable public transit and health insurance, then the pay raises would be justifiable — within reason. Please do not vote for this proposal as currently presented.

  106. Perhaps the Commonwealth would care to share some of the common wealth. The expense budget that is proposed for the closest in legislators exceeds my social security payment because I was unwise enough to become a quadriplegic. The legislators deserve fairness, but don’t we all?

    1. This vote is not primarily about fairness, although I think the lack of adjustment of leadership stipends since 1982 is a little unfair, it is about putting in place a structure that supports the health of a public institution.

      But my heart goes out to you and I hope you’ll let my office know if there are ways we can help.

  107. Hey Will,

    What have the legislators done that merits them getting a raise? Over the years I’ve seen a few things they’ve done to benefit themselves, and overall it seems like they think the people serve them, not the other way around. The most recent example is their subversion of the Cannabis law – done covertly (how does that serve the people?). I hope a wave of challengers will run against them in the next race. You should go into politics because you want to help your fellow citizens. If you don’t feel you’re making enough, get a part time job like everyone else has to. You’ve been doing a good job but the rest of them – not so much.

  108. Whatever the Commission decided is in all probability fair. I also think that your salary is about the same or a little more than that of a senior level mgmt. job at the social service agency where I work. I believe you deserve the increase. Your reasoning about your current living expenses and a raise was as always well done. – John Millea

  109. I think we do need to make sure that elected officials are properly compensated; however, given that the Governor and the legislature have committed to austerity for the public, I do not believe such an increase is justifiable at this time. That said, I would love for the legislature to embrace fair and just taxation and robust investment, and in that context, I think it would be justifiable.

  110. First, I caution that any comparison with the private sector needs to include salary benefits, retirement & retirement benefits. Since the introduction of the 401K, the value of retirement has diminished in the private sector and increased in the public.
    Second, the benefit of a fixed expense allowance is the removal of temptation to pad that account.
    As for salaries, they should be fair and equitable. We don’t know or understand the nuances of all sources of income but the reponsibility of the job certainly equates to a much higher salary than the $75K you state.

    1. This is true – you have to look at the total package. A few years ago I spent a lot of time going over private/public comparisons based on total income. The basic conclusion I found is that at lower income levels, you are probably better off in the public sector — a school janitor does much better than a cleaner in a downtown office building. But, the higher you go up the professional ladder, the better off you are in the private sector. At the managerial/professional levels we are talking about, income would generally be considerably higher in the private sector.

  111. Will, your comments make me feel the commission did their due diligence. One point I would call out is, in making comparisons to private sector jobs, can a proposal with these increases, also include a removal of the pension and institute what we, in the private sector see is the norm, a defined contribution (401k or 403b plan)? It is the only thing that gets me.

    Good luck in the vote and thanks again for your communication.

  112. Hi Will, Thanks again for your usual excellent discussion of the legislative pay situation. It appears that this is a hot topic from the volume of responses. I think you would agree that you have received a good representation of the thoughts on legislative compensation that are out there. As far as the senators and representatives, the pay has been very poor for a long time and represents people’s general perspective of “public service” work. That refers to municipal workers, public health, social work, teachers in most communities and other professions named by many of your respondents. It was said many times in the comments, and I agree, that it is not always a good idea to compare salaries with the private sector. There seems to be this relatively new thought that in order to attract the best and the brightest, one has to pay exorbitantly high salaries. What has happened in CEO salaries, as well as school superintendents, and I’m sure other sectors of which I am unaware, is a good example of that. On the other hand, the thought that good people should care enough about these “public service jobs” to take low salaries while everyone else shoots for the highest dollar is equally ridiculous. We need to start talking about living wages with added incentives to make sure that undesirable jobs that we need are filled. More money will not always attract the best and the brightest and paying a high salary will not always get you a good employee. You do a great job; some others don’t. What people see when they don’t want to give the legislators a higher income are the number of minutes that the legisltors are in session reported in the local papers. I think citizens are perfectly reasonable to expect a good salary with expenses associated with the job covered, but we should be able to expect a full-time position commitment. The top salaries, especially for the governor, are too high in relation to the State as a whole. It never sits well when suddenly the salaries are raised so high on a percentage basis. A plan with slow increases would sit much better with the populace. There is only so much knowledge that one person can have and only so many hours in a day, and the thought that high paid people do so much more than everyone else has always been just wrong in my estimation. Working three low-paid jobs because you couldn’t afford an education, that’s work. My basic message mirrors many others, bring up the bottom; put a ceiling on the top and balance the middle. I think most people can support that. The search for more money and more economic growth at the expense of everyone else has brought us to the place we are. Sorry for the ramble but I am just back from Washington DC.

  113. I agree that with all the work State Senators and reps. do, they need a raise. But since they do most of the work in getting bills in committee or on the floor, they deserve it but I think the Speaker of the House does not

  114. You deserve it Senator Will.
    I support your recommendations.
    I work in the private sector as a consulting engineer. Three years have passed since the committee made its recommendations for the increase. In the private sector, this is not acceptable, why is it different in the public sector?

  115. This is not much overall to the state budget. The total increase would be about $1 million per year, on current expenditures of about $15 million, if Will is typical, eg,

    40 Senators & 160 Representatives, now
    $70K each, increase +$3K (about 4%): +$600K;

    $151K, increase +$100K (66%); +$100K;

    Officials (4),
    $130K each, increase +$50K (38%): +$200K;

    Senate President and Speaker (2)
    $102K each, increase $75K (73%): +$150K

    Total expenditure, currently $15.5M, increase +$1.05M

    In context, the state budget was $55 billion in FY2015 ($45 billion state funds, $9 billion federal), though with a spending gap of $1.8 billion when the budget was signed in July 2015.

    Top expenses by category:

    Education 22.4% or about $12B
    (both K-12 and Higher Ed.)

    Medicaid 21.4% or $12B

    Transportation 7.7% or $ 4B

    Corrections 2.4% or $ 1.3B

    Public assistance 2.2% or $ 1.2B

    All Other 44.0% about $24B


  116. My first thought is about many state workers and state-funded programs that have had level-funding for many years, and many people in public service who have been doing on-the-ground hard work in social services, education, etc.

    But the commission report seems reasonable, and the reasons for competitive salaries are reasonable, and so I think it should be partially funded…. maybe not fully funded for symbolic reasons.

    I agree about getting away from the per diem formula. A flat amount is more professional and more manageable.

  117. I heard that the governor was not going to take the raise. It must be very tough for legislators that must travel for 2-3 hours to travel to Boston then pay to park. I assume legislators do not get free parking.

  118. I think this is a right measure. Elected officials should be compensated appropriately. That lowers the potential for corruption.

  119. I do not like the justification that high salaries are necessary to attract qualified people. If Stan Rosenberg will vote no and Byron Rushing would be glad to step up if DeLeo is insulted by the salary, bring it on.

    I suggest voting “no” unless leadership salaries are lowered substantially to say 2% stipend raise compounded per year since 1982. They deserve the same salary as other legislators plus that stipend.

  120. Thank you for your clear and thoughtful analysis. I agree with the commission’s recommendations and reasoning, and your support of them.

    I also think it would make sense to index leadership pay increases in some way, to avoid the need for this kind of dramatic jump in the future. (No change for 35 years, yikes!)

  121. Senator,
    I’m offended by the audacity of your request!
    (I’m going to paint this very broadly). Thanks to an ill-advised ballot question, that passed because we as citizens were convinced that this would the most just way to compensate the legislature; you and your peers now get a pay raise that is MANDATED by our constitution. (Wow, I wish mine was). The trouble is, your raises are now kinda linked to ours. Kinda sucks doesn’t it?

  122. I fully support the proposed pay increase. We need qualified people and they need to be compensated fairly. These are challenging times and our competent MA legislators are up to the task and we need to support them anyway we can.

  123. I think the pay raises are a good idea. Public service should not be a thankless job. As you said, offering lower salaries discourages qualified people from running for office and turn public service into a hobby for the rich.

  124. I have yet to read others’ comments, but while I have no problem in principle agreeing to fair compensation for quantity of work and relative responsibility, I’m having difficulty supporting bringing legislative pay increases in line with inflation when the same legislature seems so resistant to bringing the MA living wage in line with this same inflation. The last I saw, MA minimum wage increases were incremental and over a period of several years, which almost certainly means the rate will continue to lag behind the inflation rate. If the legislature were to raise the rate sooner and higher, I could more easily countenance a legislative pay raise. Fair is fair.

  125. I’m furious that they would even consider such an irrational pay raise, in such a time as this. So many services are headed to stop because of the actions of the 1% having gained so much power in Washington, people need to work several jobs at $11 per hr to just make ends meet, while they are still paying for an education that makes them overqualified for the part time jobs that they must hold. Seniors like me, and families with little children see their food stamps cut every few months.

    I am trying to budget my $80 per month allotted for healthy food, and I would like public officials who have the LUXURY of voting themselves such a pay raise to have to work for $11 per hour that they ACTUALLY work, and also live on $80 a month for food.

    I am SO sick of this type of bloated benefits for positions, as another commented, are defined as public service.

    We have come so far since Franklin D. Roosevelt (who accepted no pay for his service as President) that it makes me so sad – and furious. And I will not vote for one politician who votes to continue this cronyism.

  126. I think the planned salary adjustments are very reasonable and much deserved–most especially yours. I appreciate all the hard work you perform on our behalf and pray for the health and well being of you and your family.

  127. PLEASE!!!! What Do you think! I’m 70 years old and retired. Why don’t you people pass some God Damn law to give us retired state workers more than a $300 raise every year.

  128. I SUPPORT the increases. Good paying jobs will promote more people to get involved with elected office

  129. Although I agree that the legislators could use a pay raise, i think that almost doubling the governor’s salary is obscene. Also, the leaders in the house & senate….. Can’t they go up incrementally over several years like the raising of the minimum wage?

  130. As a former executive compensation consultant, I was intrigued to see the Commission’s report. Thanks for providing it. A few comments: (1) They report their time was “tightly constrained,” so they couldn’t assess total compensation, including benefits. Very poor planning on someone’s part. (2) The private sector comparisons were silly, some more so than others. But they weren’t used, so it didn’t matter. (3) The comparisons across other high-salary state jobs raises the question about their appropriateness (on both the low and the high side) But they also were not used. The comparisons that were used as the basis for the recommendations were of other state legislatures and seemed to me more or less valid to me. So I support the increase and other changes – except for one – the Lt. Governor job is paid too high already for its real duties. It probably should be eliminated.

  131. I see the increases in the context of the overall budget. How much total (dollars and percent) would it add?

    With the governor and the legislature opposed to tax increases, what services will be cut? It’s hard to weigh this proposal out of context, though I appreciate that we ask you to do that all the time.

    Personally I think we should increase taxes to make investments that are important to the Commonwealth.

  132. Will, this is terrible optics and has the potential to be demoralizing in a time when both people are struggling and they’ve sent a message nationally that they want to blow up the entire system. Don’t give Massachusetts voters an excuse to say that they’re right.

  133. Reasonable pay will attract good people. Our representatives should not have to continue to work for 1982 wages. This is overdue. Something should be added (if it has not been already) to automatically make adjustments so that current legislators do not have to vote raises for themselves.

  134. I’m a big proponent of government officials being OF and FOR the people. With six figure salaries like that, how can our legislative leaders understand the daily struggles that most people in this state have? I’m fine with the other increases, but $175,000 and $250,000 are EXCESSIVE. With regard to comparing to the private sector, many people are fighting against CEOs with salaries that are several times larger than their employees. I understand that adjustments haven’t been made in a while and that these increases are only a small percentage of the overall budget. You say that the increases will be absorbed by agency budgets, but what parts of their budgets will not be met because they now must handle these salary increases? I am against the such large salary increases for the constitutional officers.

  135. Compensation for public service jobs should not be bench-marked to the private sector. I would probably agree that the typical legislator is somewhat underpaid and I do not have too much trouble with that portion of the increase.

    The increases for the leadership positions are way too high. $175,000 may seem reasonable compared with the private sector but this does not factor in the value of benefits – especially pension benefits. Those of us in the private sector have seen pensions disappear. In fact, I have never had one. Further, there is no reason why the senior legislative leaders need to be the highest paid in the country.

    The proposed increase for the Governor is also too high. We do not seem to have much trouble attracting decent candidates. I don’t think it is too much to ask for them to serve a term or two at a reasonable rate since they tend to command huge salaries when their terms are over.

  136. I wish the legislature would pass comprehensive criminal justice reform; only then would I back raises.

    My state representative told me that the legislature only passes about 20 bills of any consequences every year. Are we paying a lot for shuffling paper?

  137. I’m supportive of the increases. It comes down to getting what you pay for. It has to be attractive enough to get good people, and high enough so they/you don’t have the constant worry of finding outside income for your families.

    Here’s a way to offset some of the cost:
    Get rid of the Governor’s Council. Very few, if any, states have such a body. The senate, in combination with other bodies, could pick up those few duties. (For example,the senate would then approve appointments of judges, like just about everywhere else.) Someone in state govt once told me (about 10 yrs ago?) as a guess that office costs the state $500k-600k per year. This would help the optics a bit – getting rid of waste, the legislature pick up some (minimal) tasks.

  138. I support the increases. We have to pay fairly for our leadership, to ensure quality representation and continuity. As a elected and re-elected (several times) member of an orchestra committee, I know it’s valuable to have members who have a sense of the history of the group. If I wanted to gut the government, I would have voted for someone else for President.
    I know it’s touchy for legislators to vote pay increases for themselves, but the increases are not huge (even for the leadership, if they haven’t had an increase in 34 years). What were you earning 35 years ago?
    And by all means, index future raises so we don’t have to have this discussion perennially!

  139. There are few things that should be done first.
    1) prison reform long overdue
    2) increase the minimum wage to $15.00
    When these issues are completed and in effect, then i would agree with the increases. I realize that the minimum wage was just increased to $11.00 from $10.00. That is a 10% increase. The increases being proposed are 50% or higher for the legislators. In order to be fair the minimum wage should increase by 50% as well. Just a thought!
    I appreciate your sincere interest in listening to your constituents.

  140. It makes sense to index salaries for awhile but there should be thorough review periodically — say every 3 to 5 years. Otherwise the salaries get out of whack with the economy, a sense of entitlement settles in and it becomes extremely difficult to adjust inequities.

  141. I believe there are so few contested seats is not due to the pay but the difficulty of running against an incumbent in power. Thus why term limits could be a good idea. What you lose though with term limits is experience. What you gain is fresh ideas and more people willing to possibly run and serve.

    Yes legislators deserve fair pay and fair and reasonable pensions. Pensions are a real issue to consider. Many are unmatched in the private sector

    I am open to the pay increase but also to a full year legislative session where bills are not all passed or passed over at the last minute

  142. I agree with your reasoning TOTALLY! Perhaps because it agrees with my thinking!And indexing makes sense,particularly so that the legislators will not have to vote for thir own raises without a good rationale.

  143. Dear Senator Brownsberger,
    Thank you for all of the helpful information. Will you please clearly spell out the parameters of pensions for state elected legislators?
    Self funded?
    Matched dollar for dollar?
    Fully funded benefit?
    Many thanks,

    1. Same as all other non-public-safety public employees in Massachusetts — mostly based on employee contributions of 9-11% of salary, but state contributes towards catch up for previous retirees who paid at a lower rate. Defined benefit plan, explained in full depth here. Funding status vs. liabilities a subject of ongoing methodological debate.

  144. You say 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.”

    However, aren’t the legislators the ONLY members of the beneficiary class?

    1. Yes, and that is a particular enough fit that we are required to file a public disclosure that we are voting on it, but not so particular that we would be prohibited from voting on it. If the vote was: “Should Will Brownsberger get a pay increase?”, I could not vote on it.

  145. From what I understand New Hampshire does it differently, The Legislative Aides do all the fact finding, get pay & benefits, put in all the hours and work hear out constituents concerns and forward them to the legislator who is the umpire of his/her office. The legislators meet once a month for an evening and just vote on issues collect $100 for transportation and then go home and work their day jobs like their constituents. I doubt this model will work in Mass, But we need to look at the overall efficiency of the Statehouse “workplace” operations. My concerns are these long term fiefdoms that form and we get things like the MBTA, MassPork, MassPike. They do get rectified but after decades of acrimony.

  146. If we want to keep and attract dedicated and effective folks like you, it would behoove us to support a pay increase for those who represent us.

  147. Nice Report. However, public workers and police, fire and teachers actually have skills and work for a living just to pay private sector politicians their salaries. You get to raise your own salaries and “work” to get re-elected over and over. Most politicians have no skills to fall back on, so they stay in government.
    I believe New Hampshire does it correctly the way the founders envisioned…come in from the fields, factories a private business, etc., serve the people AND THEN GO BACK TO WORK. Then other folks do the same, so the people are served, rather than the politicians serving themselves. I dare say, most politicians could not support themselves otherwise.

  148. I’m fine with the proposed increases. Over 40+ years of dealing with legislators, I have found the vast majority to be dedicated and hard-working, and I have always supported increasing their pay.

  149. I’m a lifelong democrat and I urge you to PLEASE vote no. This sort of action by the legislature is completely tone deaf. The $40,000 pay raise for leadership would be higher than the median ANNUAL household income in Fenway/Kenmore of $32,000.

    I understand it must be awkward to vote no on your bosses’ (not to mention your own) pay raise, but actions such as this will only continue to rile up populist anger.

    To be clear, if you vote ‘yes’ on this, I’ll vote ‘no’ on you.

    1. I think you must be including a lot of students to get that low number.

      I know it doesn’t feel right, but I truly believe that it is right, right for the taxpayers in the long run. You want people to want these jobs and be able to make a sustained commitment to them.

      1. Check out census tract 010203. Only 16% students and the median household income is $37,830. The raises for leadership were out of control.


        It doesn’t feel right because it wasn’t right and it wasn’t handled right. By prioritizing a bill that gives a 40% raise to leaders already earning six figures, you have ignored the middle class and handed a political layup to the governor.

          1. Touché. I didn’t realize the map was filtered by grad students when I was looking at it.

            I still believe that $40,000 all at once for people already making six figures is too large of a raise. I still believe this is tone deaf. I still believe this vote should not have applied to the current session. I still believe this was rushed through. I still believe this provides a huge political advantage to the governor. I just hope that advantage doesn’t rear its head in 2018.

            In the coming session, I hope the legislature will work as expediently to alleviate income inequality in this state as it has to rush through these raises.

            I’ll be watching and voting.

  150. Will, I think that these increase are top heavy. I would like to see pay increase more for Legislators, so as to provide incentive for talented people who might consider running. But I think that the increases for the Governor and Leadership are too high, especially considering that two of my legislative priorities–public transportation and funding for the arts desperately need additional funds.

    The neglect that has prevailed over the last few decades in these areas is shortsighted and points to a lack of genuine leadership. Particularly, I cannot support giving the Governor such a big bump in pay until he can find a way to work with the legislature to increase funding for Transportation, the Arts, Education and Social Services.

    I think that all pay increases should be incremental and should require votes and public input at regular intervals in order to make pay increases at least partly dependent on constituent satisfaction.

    I don’t begrudge anyone a decent salary, nor am I a Republican anti-taxer, but I do feel a great deal of disappointment in the way that we have taken care of some of our most important infrastructure and institutions.

    1. Thanks, Joe.

      I agree that the raises should be incremental. But that hasn’t happened for 34 years for the leadership number and it is time to make the adjustment.

      I share your concern for Transportation, Arts, Education and Social Services, but the legislative raises aren’t a budget issue in the big picture. They are a drop in the bucket.

  151. I would agree to all the pay increases except that of Governor. There is never a shortage of candidates for governor. The recent history of Massachusetts governors is that they all have been able to easily get lucrative jobs at the end of their gov’t service (and usually had lucrative compensation prior to taking office), should they chose. Baker will be no different that Weld, Cellucci, Romney, and Patrick. In fact, since the governor position (in addition to any and all of the 50 states governors) is so important on a nationwide political scale and often is influenced by campaign out of state money, the need for higher compensation while in office is diminished. Leave the governor position out of it, and I’m with you Will. I am however fine with a 2% (or something tied to cola) increase every year for the governor compensation.

  152. if they want a pay raise why don’t they ask the people and let us vote it up or down. I know I only get 1 1/2% to3% in a great year.
    Not right no one should be able to vote them self a raise. You get a vote of no confidence from me

  153. Why are they combining it with the judges? Are they afraid that the voters will put it on the ballot?

      1. The judges pay should not be part of the legislators pay. Keep them separate.This way we have a way to veto it.

  154. No, no, no ! They get a “pension” which should be COUNTED as a big part of senators/reps. compensation.
    It’s like a private company that gets stock options as a bonus along with a “normal” salary. Supposedly they get those options hoping that good management & work will make the company stock pay off at the end.
    They also get “pre diem” benefits and I believe they don’t even have to show up and still get paid ! The State’s been having fiscal problems in the last 2 fiscal years making ends meet. We need fiscal “austerity”.
    I haven’t got a raise since 2007. No raise since 2007 !

  155. A lot of those State workers that made high salaries worked a lot of “overtime”. My understanding is that the Legislature is a “part-time” job.
    The Governor knew before he ran for office that we had NO Governor’s mansion. If he wanted a Governor’s residence he should have run for office in NY State or NYC. NYC has Gracie Mansion and Mayor Bloomberg was born at St. Eze. in Brighton and Mayor Di Blasio was raised in Cambridge.
    Besides, when Gov. Weld got out of office, he said it was the “easiest” job he’s ever had ! When staff rumors made the newspapers, it proved correct. They said he used to just sit there and stare at the wall or out the window. His staff called him the “Mummy”. he must’ve been bored stiff because he resigned.
    We couldn’t have a Tax Holiday in August for “back-to-school” shopping because we couldn’t afford it ! I’m still wondering why I’m paying a sales tax on vitamins and Tylenol that the doctor wants me to take. Both have to be EATEN and in my case are a medical necessity.
    We CAN’T afford big pay raises for pols.

    1. If you know someone who is loafing or treating the job without the necessary respect, your remedy is the ballot box. But I can tell you that most of my colleagues work very hard, and so, by the way, does our Governor.

  156. I think all elected officials’ pay should be tied to the average national income, not counting the top 1% of earners. The top positions at the state level could be 1.5X the average, and the top Federal positions would be 2X the average, never more. Public Service should be a patriotic labor of love, and tying government pay to the national average is incentive for government to improve peoples’ lives. Government wants a raise? So do I, and I can’t just wiggle a pen to make it happen.

      1. Please explain your question. Those are not elected positions. I opened by specifying elected officials.

          1. I agree completely, but I wasn’t talking about them. I threw in the term “public service” assuming the elected official context was strong enough. Sorry for being unclear. For the record, I appreciate the lengths you go to stay connected to your constituents, even when I don’t agree with your decisions (National Popular Vote, the “secret” vote to push back cannabis retail business.)

            In this case, I don’t feel great about advocating a reduction of a good person’s salary, but I do believe it’s important that our elected officials not be held above those they serve. Rather than being able to vote on your own salary, which is unthinkable to regular people, I really don’t see the harm in tying our fortunes to yours.

            1. I agree we should be tied together — really, that is what we have.

              The base pay is already tied to the median household income and the new legislation would tie all amounts to an income indicator from the federal government that is available more currently than the median HHI.

            2. Replying here because I can’t reply to your last reply… “the new legislation would tie all amounts” – so not just base pay? But with a nice multiplier, judging by the numbers in your post. What’s this mystery federal income indicator you mention? Can I use it to make $75,000 too? 😉

            3. The federal metric is salaries and wages in Massachusetts by the Bureau of Economic Analysis — the change in this quantity will be used to adjust the amounts defined by the legislation once every two years.

              Here is a link to the BEA regional economics web page. One can query state historical data by creating an account at this link. These statistics are quite up to date — the third quarter of 2016 (July-October), for example, was available on December 20, 2016. The aggregate of wages and salaries does go both up and down.

  157. I am totally opposed to this. At a time when confidence in our elected officials is at a perilous low this is the wrong time to self reward with a raise. First inspiring confidence and convincing taxpayers that you have earned a raise would be important

    Taking this step without broad based constituent support would be such a bad idea.

    At this time I am totally opposed to this raise.

    Thank you for always asking for our input Will. You are such a fine member of the legislature and give us comfort at such a difficult time for our nation

    Hannelore Noble
    276 Marlborough Street
    Boston 02116

  158. I support this – it seems like a reasonable increase to reward those who serve on our behalf, and saves us money in the long run if it reduces corruption, outside influence, and attracts stronger leaders into government.

  159. Will, can you respond to the editorials in the Boston Globe today that urge the Governor to veto the raises?

    1. I think most of it has already been responded to on this site. The Globe has a right to its opinions. I don’t always agree with them.

      As to the process, I completely disagree with the notion that more process is merited. This is not rocket science. There are a bunch of important pay elements that haven’t been adjusted in 34 years and now we’ve finally gotten around to doing it.

      We should do it and move on to the larger and more complex challenges we face.

  160. It’s my understanding (I could be wrong) that the Law passed in 1998 only allowed for legislative pay increases tied to inflation, and that the legislature was required to go to the people thorough the ballot process for any pay increase above the cost of living. This pay increase was underhandedly tied to the judges pay increase which makes it un-rescindable according to the Massachusetts constitution. However it was done, it is wrong and it is disgraceful. You ALL KNEW what the pay was when your when who were elected or re-elected to the legislature last November. If you didn’t like it you should have applied for another job. The people who came up with this scam are greedy and cynical and they’re just laughing in the faces of the electorate and tax payers who quite frankly don’t have the time to keep tabs of this malfeasance and misfeasance from our elected officials. You’re right Will, the solution to this “problem” resides with us through the ballot box. You all need to go. Oh, and about your note stating just how hard you work? Although it wasn’t my intention to impugn your work ethic, if THESE are the results, YOU and your fellow legislators should to us all a big favor and JUST STAY HOME. Just leave our money alone!

    Joseph M Picone
    349 School St

    P.S If I have to stick a sign in my front yard informing passers by what you’re trying to pull, that’s just what I’ll do!

    1. Thanks, Joe.

      The other compensation components were in place at the time of the ballot question and were not addressed either way by it. There was no understanding that they would never be adjusted: That wouldn’t make sense.

  161. Shame on you for your vote to increase the pay of legislators. Representatives should serve their terms as a duty like jury duty. No member should be there for more than two terms. This is not a lifetime career.

    I appreciate your willingness to listen to your constituents, but you have lost me as a supporter.

    1. For what it is worth, I know a lot more about how to put good quality legislation together than I did as a freshman rep. Some may be quicker learners, but I believe that term limits basically guaranty that none of the elected officials know what they are doing and all the real work is be done by unaccountable staff.

      Those staff, in turn, will be higher paid than legislators — the most highly paid people in the legislature are all staff people already. But you don’t know who they are or how to reach them on the phone.

  162. Sorry to get this posted too late to influence your thinking, but most of it is “food for thought” on the current structuring of legislative/leadership and public sector pay more broadly, and on the electorate’s response (a recurrent issue) so I thought I’d post it anyway before the topic is closed.
    I think legislative raises (other than speaker’s/president’s) consistent with the commission’s recommendations should be a no-brainer, primarily on: 1) “fairness” grounds (comparability to other state employees of similar levels of responsibility, skills and education, etc., who may, however (as some suggest here), be overpaid) ; 2) to enable our elected officials to serve as full-time legislators without other distracting jobs/sources of income; and 3) because it may importantly serve to reduce motivations to corruption, etc. [Massachusetts repeated experience with our (corruption-convicted) legislative leaders indicates that those temptations should be reduced. My uninformed impression is that legislative leaders likely work the equivalent hours of two full-time jobs if they are performing their functions responsibly (as do responsible legislators like yourself). and thus “deserve” more than 100K, but 175 K is a lot and likely would elicit a lot of electorate resentment. and I would hope that something less than 175K compensation for leadership should be enough to reduce motives to gain financially from improper exercise of their leadership power.]
    I think this chain of blog responses to your post does capture most concerns that should inform your decision to support the pay increases. I agree with virtually all that support the increase, and so write here only to reinforce a few valid exceptions to the supporting rationales mentioned by you and others , and some related suggestions not mentioned by other blog responders.
    My initial impressions are that comparison of public employees’ pay to the radically skewed inequity of private sector “executive compensation” is not a “fair” metric for top executive/legislative job salaries, and that the more appropriate “fairness” comparison should be to the nonprofit sector (with exclusion of the highly lucrative end of that salary bell curve reflecting the “fake nonprofits”, like some wealthy private family foundations and health care “nonprofits”). The need to attract the highly competent out of the private sector and into government service remains, but, for those highly motivated to public service, should require only a “comfortable middle class” wage (currently 70-90K?) at entry level, and even leadership salaries should not be influenced significantly by the exorbitant “executive level” salaries that abound in some portions of the private sector. I also agree ( with some other blog posters )that the substantial “perks” of governorship (imputed income), and other stronger political motivations to serve in that ” stepping stone” position, reduce the need to use salary to attract competent candidates to that position (Perhaps indexing the governor’s pay to state median income (like legislators’ pay) would add appropriate incentives to that position (if not already so indexed), though I think that other barriers to that office filter out those who are not already independently wealthy, and thus governors might not be at all personally incentivized in policy formulation by such a salary incentive — but the optics of such an indexing might make the increase more politically palatable to the electorate. And expected annual news reporting on whether the governor’s pay went up or down based on economic growth might increase his/her political sensitivity to the “bread and butter” effects of his and the legislature’s performance in fostering economic growth. I sense that the political optics risk (to legislators) of voting to increase the gov’s and leadership’s salaries by this big jump, fair or not, is much greater than the risk from raising your own and lower leadership salaries to 70-90K.
    The concerns for the political “optics”, and fairness/inequality relative to low incomes of the private sector, are valid concerns for legislators that could perhaps be addressed by: 1) some change in the formula for legislative compensation that modifies the formula from “median state income” in a way that more strongly incentivizes legislators to favor legislation that has the effect to bring up the lowest incomes towards a “living wage” and/or 2) simultaneously pass a higher [$15?] state minimum wage at the time the legislature votes to increase their own pay. I also think that our last decade’s experience with many falling private sector incomes (while public employee union contract pay scales did not suffer similar reductions) have created additional resentment against the size of gov’t and against “highly-paid” gov’t employees fairly broadly. Perhaps indexing all “taxpayer-funded” payscales (including police, teachers, fire, prison guards, municipal employees) to private sector pay/income/employment trends (since the private sector bears the tax burden of paying those public sector employees) would be a good way to: 1) reduce that resentment; 2) reduce incentives to “grow government” at the expense of the private sector 3) create greater solidarity between employees in the private and public sectors in politically supporting gov’t policies that foster private sector economic growth (We’re all in this together, instead of “us” vs. “them” contending for the legislative preference.) (Taking on the public sector unions by touching such a “third rail” as adjusting union contract terms by indexing may be not feasible politically for most elected officials, and even if passed and implemented, might lead to annually costly litigation about, or politicizing of, whatever statistics calculations govern those indexes).
    Indexing legislators’ and other pay formulas to an index of “after tax” incomes in the private sector would help create legislative disincentives to high tax increases and growth of government, and impart greater sensitivity against increasing taxes in times of economic decline, when private sector and fixed income taxpayers are most strained by such increases. Another benefit is that this would incentivize legislative pay such that any tax increases passed would tax high incomes more than middle incomes, since tax increases that reduce the 1%’s after tax income would not affect the median as much as legislation that reduced the after tax income of the more numerous middle and lower classes (recognizing that at a certain point this incentive to tax the rich could start driving high income folks to New Hampshire or other states). Finally, I note that the legislative pay formula based on “median income” incorporates some perverse incentives: e.g. hiring more highly paid government employees and paying all gov’t employees more would tend to increase the state’s median income and is thus incentivized by the current formula for legislators’ pay, which should instead be more highly incentivized towards private sector economic growth. Also perversely, the current legislative pay incentives based on “median income” would discourage drawing more persons from welfare (and “dropped out of the labor force”) back into the labor force, because increased numbers in entry-level employment skews the median lower — thus some modifications of the legislators’ pay formula to incorporate unemployment figures and percent of labor force participating might be appropriate. Of course, such fine tuning of the structuring of that legislative pay incentive could quickly become too complex to serve the valuable symbolic function (in reducing the electorate’s resentment of “big government” and its legislators) that is successfully served by the simple “median income” indexing, and I suspect that its function is primarily symbolic and doesn’t actually motivate legislators much in shaping legislation by economic effects that would affect their take-home pay.
    I also think that simultaneously passing an extended legislative calendar might be helpful in defusing the “political optics” risks in passing these needed increases — superficially to make it appear that all legislators will be working more, though I think responsible legislators are essentially working full time year round despite the short calendar and so would not be significantly affected in their workload by extending the calendar (I think it would, in fact, even out their workload). But if the extended calendar is desired for other reasons, this “pay increase” might be an opportunistic moment to motivate that change and publicly “justify” the pay increase.
    Finally, I am curious whether our state gov’t or legislature has any agency that assists legislators in evaluating the likely deficit and private sector economic repercussions of proposed legislation, analogous to the US Congressional Budget Office economic analysis, (politicized and flawed though it may be. ) If not, what private, academic, or NGO economic analysts inform the decisions of Mass state legislators?
    With gratitude for your (and virtually all of your blog responders) thoughtful approach to policy issues. I hope you get a well-deserved raise.

    1. Scott, thank you for these thoughts and for your support on this difficult issue.

      I completely agree that our focus needs to be on raising everyone’s income, especially those who have fallen behind. I don’t think we can make the legislative pay formula too complicated — the index chosen was the salary and wage aggregate for Massachusetts: The federal BEA publishes it very currently.

      I hope we can raise the minimum wage, but that move typically takes a bigger conversation as it affects so many businesses. As politically sensitive as this raise was, it is not a big economic impact.

  163. Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful explanation of the pay raises which I support. I assume there will be the required vote to overturn Gov.Baker’s veto – which I think is a political ‘no-brainer’ on his part as a Republican and a highly cynical one. (By the way I served in the NH House for $100/year – no per diem (under 50 miles of travel)-no extra pay for my being on the leadership, which required more than a part-time schedule, so I’m a firm believer in fair compensation for this very important work, so much moreso now in the era of Trump.

  164. I think this issue needs to be addressed from a different angle. The present system for Legislative pay raises is one of a long famine followed by a short and large feast. We don’t do raises for a long time, and then a big correction is required to come up to ‘industry norms’.

    If we’re going to have any raises, they should be on a periodic basis and tied to some index shared by the general Public; Social Security increases, perhaps. That would show the Public that Legislators and the Public are on an equal footing.

    I’m personally somewhat uncomfortable about periodic raises; I work in an industry where the only way to get a raise is to change jobs. I know people who have gone over ten years without a raise. After taking the cost of living into account, these people are actually getting pay decreases. Many of the Public are in such a situation.

    Still, if we are going to have raises they should be on a more logical basis.

  165. The Governor’s veto on salary increases should hold! Legislative leaders are in elected Public Service for relatively short terms, getting high enough salaries with secure long term pension benefits that in no way compare to those of the majority of tax payers business jobs/salaries that continually fluctuate with the market. Work more efficiently during your regular work hours than claim the need to work overtime. Manage public funds more efficiently for American citizens than spending so much time defending protesters with their own agendas and those not following the laws. Focus on what is best for US citizens and our safety vs personal agendas!

  166. I’m all for pay raises, but these amounts are absurd. In real jobs one is lucky to get a 2-4% increase in their wages and this might be every 2-3 years. Not yearly.
    These are jobs that the individual holds peoples lives in their hand. Healthcare is key for these kind of low raises.

  167. Hello Will,

    Since the House and Senate passed this wage increase bill, I was thinking of throwing my hat into the ring; as it has been apparently hard to retain talent and ethically sound public servents in the Legislature. Can you give me a few pointers on where to start?

    I don’t have a degree from Harvard, Princeton, or Yale (Is it a prerequisit?), but I have worked hard for a living in both private and public sectors in a variety of trades and professions. I don’t have any specific special interests or connections to anyone with political or economic clout (Not a prerequisit, right?) But, I do know what it’s like to be in the squeezed middle class.

    In fact I need to find other work because my current job as a state employee does not provide a living wage for a family of four. I heard that health care costs for deductibles and copays are going up, and that hurts my pocket book further. It seems lately that annual cost of living wage increases are never enough to keep up with my “affordable housing” rent increases and other ballooning expenses like healthcare and daycare expenses. Home ownership is out of the question.

    When I started state service I signed on to practice ethically no matter what. I don’t remember getting a bonus for doing so. I can say that if elected I would practice ethically no matter what wage I earn. This should go without saying. In fact, most corruption cases I know of involve people who already have wealth. Afterall, the love of money is insatiable.

    Now, I don’t know very much about running a political campaign but I do know it takes a bit of cash to start. I was thinking of running as an Independent, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of money out there to start a campaign compared to party war chests. Since I am arears in doctors payments and putting my groceris on a credit card – I know, terrible financial practice but I have to feed my family somehow. Do you think that would preclude me from running from office? I saw what they did to Marco Rubio! – I don’t have a lot of cash to start with, but I am happy to start knocking on doors and posting flyers, durring non-office hours of course. Any pointers? I would appreciate it.


  168. I am perplexed as to why public employment that offers fair wages and benefits and job protection often comes under severe attack from the public instead of their viewing it as what should be the norm for all employment – both public and private.

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