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Massachusetts lawmakers are poised to vote on a package of pay raises for the legislative leadership, the governor and other top state elected officials.
The bill, unveiled late Monday by the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees, calls for boosting the annual pay of House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats, roughly 40 percent to $142,000. Raises would also be in store for other Democratic as well as Republican leaders, and for the chairs of legislative committees.
Under the proposal -- likely to be voted on by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday -- the governor's salary would increase from the current $151,800 to $185,000, along with a new, $65,000 housing allowance. Massachusetts is among a handful of states without an official governor's residence or housing allowance.
Pay hikes would also be given to other constitutional officers, with the attorney's general's annual salary going from $130,582 to $175,000 and the state's treasurer getting a boost from $127,917 to $175,000.
The proposal came less than a week after lawmakers held a public hearing on a report that was filed in December 2014 by a special advisory panel on compensation for elected officials. The report had lain dormant on Beacon Hill until it suddenly resurfaced in the opening days of the 2017-2018 legislative session.
The advisory panel chaired by Ira Jackson, a former state revenue commissioner, had recommended the same increases for the governor and other constitutional officers, but more sizeable hikes for the speaker and Senate president, from the current $102,000 to $175,000.
Rosenberg acknowledged that taking a vote early in the current session could help avoid conflict-of-interest questions, since committee chairs and most of the others who would receive pay raises under the bill had not yet been formally named. That means lawmakers, technically speaking, would not be casting votes directly affecting their own current salaries.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he would review the bill if it reached his desk, but added: "Both the lieutenant governor (Karyn Polito) and I are quite content to continue to work with the compensation we have."
Speaking to reporters Monday before the bill was formally unveiled, DeLeo and Rosenberg were mindful of the controversy the pay raise vote could stir with the general public, especially in light of state budget constraints and recent talk of fiscal belt-tightening and potential tax hikes.
"Being the speaker of the House is pretty much a seven day of the week job, 365 days a year," DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, said when asked if he felt he deserved a raise.
Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said he hoped Massachusetts residents would keep an open mind toward higher salaries.
"Fair-minded people will consider that the stipends for the presiding officers have not changed for 33 years," Rosenberg said. "Who works for the same amount 33 years later?"
Under a 1998 amendment to the state constitution, base pay for rank-and-file legislators is adjusted every two years to reflect changes in the median household income for Massachusetts residents during the previous two-year period. The current base pay is $62,547.
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