Senate Votes In Favor Of Lawmaker Pay Raises With Veto-Proof Majority

Acting less than 24 hours after the House, the Senate on Thursday voted 31-9 in support of an $18 million package of pay raises for lawmakers, judges and constitutional officers, with Democratic leadership securing a veto-proof majority that all but assures the bill will become law even if Gov. Charlie Baker vetoes it.

The House passed its pay raise bill (H 58) on a 116-44 vote and the Senate passed its proposal (S 16) with three Democrats joining all six Republican senators in opposition. The Democrats voting against the bill were Sens. Anne Gobi, Michael Moore and Walter Timilty.

Timilty declined to comment on his vote when approached outside the chamber, but Gobi, a Spencer Democrat, called her decision a "conscientious vote."

"I just thought it was too much considering the situation many of the people in the commonwealth are going through," Gobi told the News Service.

She was also carrying a copy of the letter she intends to send to Treasurer Deborah Goldberg declining the pay increase should it become law, and said he hoped her colleagues who also voted no would similarly not accept the raise.

"You can't be hypocritical. If you vote no, you shouldn't take the dough, so I won't take the money," Gobi said.

Legislative leaders worked behind the scenes over the winter on the pay raise bill before springing the topic into the public realm last Tuesday by calling for a hearing on Thursday on a two-year-old report on pay levels for public officials. Lawmakers on Monday night unveiled their bill. With the potential for larger paychecks on the horizon, the branches whisked the legislation through.

While base pay rates of legislators are adjusted every two years based on changes in median income, Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka defended the pay raises on the floor, arguing that stipends for leadership and senior committee positions had not been adjusted since either 1982 or 1994.

Spilka, of Ashland, promised that the $4.1 million cost of the raises over the final six months of this fiscal year would not require a special budget bill to appropriate more money for salaries, but rather would be absorbed into existing budget.

The only amendment proposing a change to the bill that wasn't withdrawn before debate began was a Sen. Donald Humason plan proposing to delay the raises until January 2019 after the next election cycle. Humason said postponing the pay raises would be in keeping with how Congress and many city council's deal with compensation changes for elected officials.

The amendment was rejected on a voice vote.

The House plans to convene at 2 p.m. Thursday, making it likely that the pay raise bill could land on Gov. Baker's desk before the end of the day. Baker on Wednesday hinted that he might veto the bill, but both branches appear to have sufficient support to override the governor.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a Democrat who is actively exploring a possible run for governor in 2018, urged Baker to veto the bill after the Senate's vote, calling it a "poorly rushed-through pay raise plan" that should have been subjected to more debate and transparency.

Legislative leaders did not hold a public hearing on the proposal.

This article was originally published on January 26, 2017.



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