By Bob Katzen
A total of $1.2 million per year is the price tag for the salary hikes given last week to the governor, the other five constitutional statewide officers, 40 senators and 160 representatives. Here’s how it all went down:
Gov. Baker announced that the 200 members of the Legislature will receive a 5.93 percent pay hike for the 2019-2020 legislative session that begins January 2. The hike will increase the base salary of each senator and representative by $3,709 per year – from the current $62,547 to $66,256. The total cost of the hike for all 200 legislators is $741,800.
Baker was required under the state constitution to determine the amount of a pay raise or cut that state legislators would receive for the 2019-2020 session. All Massachusetts governors are obligated to increase or decrease legislative salaries biennially under the terms of a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998. The amendment, approved by a better than two-to-one margin, requires legislative salaries to be “increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding 2-year period, as ascertained by the governor.” Baker said he used the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to calculate that median household income in Massachusetts from for that 2-year period had grown from $73,052 to $77,385, or 5.93 percent.
Legislators’ salaries were increased by $2,515 for the 2017-2018 legislative session. That hike came on the heels of a salary freeze for the 2015-2016 legislative session, a $1,100 pay cut for the 2013-2014 session and a $306 pay cut for the 2011-2012 session. Prior to 2011, legislators’ salaries had been raised every two years since the $46,410 base pay was first raised under the constitutional amendment in 2001.
The new $66,256 salary means legislative salaries have been raised $19,846, or 42.7 percent, since the mandated salary adjustment became part of the state constitution.
In the meantime, a second pay hike for close to 70 percent of the state’s 200 legislators also takes effect January 2. Currently 139, or 69.5 percent, of the state’s 200 legislators receive a stipend for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs and as the ranking Republican on some committees. All 40 senators and 99 of the 160 representatives receive this bonus pay ranging from $15,000 to $80,000. A pay raise approved by the Legislature in 2017 requires that every two years the salaries of these 139 legislators are increased or decreased based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that measures the quarterly change in salaries and wages. This year, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office said that based on that formula, these stipends will increase by 8.3 percent. That means the total of the stipends will increase by $249,010 per year, from the current $3,127,350 to $3,376,360.
The highest legislative increases will go to House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka who currently earn $142,547 made up of the $62,547 base salary and an $80,000 bonus for being House speaker and Senate president. The 8.3 percent bump in $80,000 is worth $6,640. Add the $3,709 hike and DeLeo and Spilka’s annual salary increases to $152,896 – an increase of $11,260 or 9.3 percent.
And there’s more. The 2017 law also requires that every two years the salaries of the governor and the other five constitutional statewide officers be increased or decreased based on the same data from the BEA. This hikes the governor’s salary by $15,355, from $185,000 to $200,355, making him the highest paid governor in the nation, just ahead of Gov. Jerry Brown of California at $195,803. Add Baker’s $60,00 housing allowance and the total rises to $260,355. Other hikes include the lt. governor, auditor and secretary of state by $13,695, from $165,000 to $178,695 ; the state treasurer and attorney general by $14,525 from $175,000 to $189,525.
The 8.3 percent hike also applies to the general expense allowance each senator and representative receives. Members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse currently receive $15,000 per year while members beyond the 50 miles receive $20,000 per year. The $15,000 will increase by $1,250 (to a total of $16,250). The $20,000 will increase by $1,660 to a total of $21,660. The grand total of the hike for the 200 legislators is $207,090.
This allowance is used at the discretion of individual legislators to support a variety of costs including the renting of a district office, contributions to local civic groups and the printing and mailing of newsletters. Legislators are issued a 1099 from the state and are required to report the allowance as income but are not required to submit an accounting of how they spend it.