PAY HIKES FOR LEGISLATORS, MAURA HEALEY AND OTHERS

By Bob Katzen

The governor, lt. governor, treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, 40 senators and 160 representatives will all receive pay raises when they assume office on January 3, 2023.

Here’s how it all went down last week:

Outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the 200 members of the Legislature will receive a 4.42 percent pay hike for the 2023-2024 legislative session that begins January 3, 2023. The hike will increase the base salary of each senator and representative by $3,117 per year— from the current $70,537 to $73,654. The total cost of the hike for all 200 legislators is $623,400 per year.

Baker is required under the state constitution to determine the amount of a pay raise or cut that state legislators would receive for the 2023-2024 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 two-year period, as ascertained by the governor.”

Looking back, legislators’ salaries were increased by $4,280 per year for the 2021-2022 legislative session, $3,709 per year for the 2019-2020 legislative session and $2,525 per year for the 2017-2018 session. Those hikes 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 pre-constitutional amendment base pay of $46,410 in 1998. The new $73,654 salary means the 1998 legislative salary of $46,410 has been raised $27,244 or 58.7 percent.
In the meantime, a second pay hike for close to 70 percent of the state’s 200 legislators also takes effect January 3. Currently an estimated 139, or almost 70 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 which currently ranges from $17,039 to $90,876. Legislation approved by the Legislature in 2017 requires that every two years the stipends of these 139 legislators be increased or decreased based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that measures the quarterly change in salaries and wages. That formula will raise the stipend in 2023 for all of these 139 legislators. The biggest hike goes to House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka’s whose salaries will rise from $178,473 to more than $214,000.
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. Incoming Gov. Healey’s salary will increase by $37,185 above Baker’s current $185,000 salary for a total of $222,185. Healey also will receive the governor’s standard $65,000 housing allowance bringing her total annual compensation $287,185 in 2023. Incoming Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll’s pay will increase by $33.165– from $165,000 to $198,165 under the 2017 law.

Supporters defend the hikes noting that voters themselves in 1998 approved the adjustment for all future legislators every two years and that two independent commissions had recommended many of the other hikes in 2017. They say that pay raises of any type are always the subject of disagreement. They note it is important to pay government officials a salary adequate enough to enable a family breadwinner or a professional to run for the office and serve.

Critics of the hikes were quick to respond. “It appears the first act the Legislature and Statehouse leaders are set to take after the narrow passage of Question 1 is to accept a 20 percent pay raise,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Voters were told the 80 percent income tax hike in Question 1 would go to education and transportation needs but Statehouse leaders are taking care of themselves before anyone else with their largest pay raise since 2017. Question 1 is set to raise taxes … and for many small business owners, retirees, home sales and high-income earners, they will be shocked to see their taxes go up by 80 percent.”

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