LEGISLATORS’ SALARIES

By Bob Katzen

The House 5-152, rejected an amendment that would eliminate the current system under which some 100 of the 160 representatives are paid stipends in addition to their base $66,256 base salary. These current stipends range from $15,000 to $80,000 for their service in Democratic or Republican leadership positions, as committee chairs or vice chairs and as the ranking Republican on some committees.

The amendment would reduce the stipend for the Senate president and speaker from $80,000 to $50,000; Senate and House Ways and Means Chairs from $65,000 to $35,000; Senate and House Majority Leaders from $60,000 to $30,000; and House speaker Pro Tempore and Senate Pro Tempore from $50,000 to $25,000. All other 152 members of the House would receive a stipend of $15,000.

The amendment also reduces the current annual general expense allowance for each legislator from $15,000 to $12,500 for members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse and from $20,000 to $17,500 for districts located outside of that radius. 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.

Amendment supporters noted the proposal is based on the pay structure for the U.S. Congress where only a few positions have higher salaries and is designed to eliminate the pay inequity for representatives.

“Every two years, representatives arrive as a group of peers to the Statehouse that are elected from across the commonwealth,” said the amendment’s sponsor Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston). “We arrive as equals. That equality, under the current system, evaporates quickly upon the election of the speaker. Unfortunately, the speaker uses the authority of the naming of committee assignments and selecting a leadership team to manipulate the members for his causes and to work against one another. The amendment’s goal is to level the playing field and begin to end that manipulation.”

Opponents said the speaker and representatives in the leadership and committee chairs have a much heavier work load and deserve a higher salary. They noted that the current pay structure is based on a 2014 report of a bipartisan special commission set up to review the compensation of the state government and its bodies. The salary was determined to be inadequate to attract people to this job. They noted some additional increases in the bonus pay were given by the Legislature in January 2017 when it overrode Gov. Baker’s veto of the hikes.

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