CLT NEWS RELEASE
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Legislators back for more pay raises despite state Constitution
Contact: Chip Faulkner, Communications Director – 508-915-3665
Here we go again – More Is Never Enough (MINE) and never will be.
Legislative leadership has decreed a hearing before the Joint Committee
on Ways and Means abruptly scheduled for tomorrow. What’s the rush?
Why it’s to review the recommendations of the “Special Advisory
Commission Regarding the Compensation of Public Officials”!
What’s the rush? The commission first released its recommendations in
2008, again in 2014. No hearings were scheduled.
Until now, January 19th in the opening days of this new legislative
session. A day before the inauguration of a new President of the United
States of America when all eyes will be on Washington.
Question 1 on the 1998 statewide ballot was a constitutional amendment
proposed by the Legislature, sold to voters as a means to prevent
legislators from ever again voting to increase their salaries. The
Official Massachusetts Information for Voters booklet published and
distributed to all voters by the Secretary of State contained this
Question 1: Proposed Amendment to the Constitution
A YES vote would prohibit state legislators from changing their base pay
and instead would adjust that pay according to changes in median
proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit the state Legislature
from changing the base compensation received by members of the
Legislature as of January 1, 1996. As of the first Wednesday in January
of 2001, and every second year thereafter, the base compensation would
be increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in
the median household income for the Commonwealth for the preceding new
year period, as ascertained by the Governor....
A "Yes" vote will prohibit legislators from voting themselves
across-the-board pay raises.
Sixty percent of voters bought into the promise.
For more history/details
During the last time this idea was floated, on Nov. 20, 2014 The
Boston Globe's Frank Phillips reported (State’s political leaders up
for pay raises):
"The commission — which has not yet
reached final conclusions — must publicly release its recommendations by
Dec. 1. But if lawmakers don’t approve the plan before the end of the
2013-14 legislative session, state conflict-of-interest laws could block
implementation of the pay hikes for two to four years.
"To avoid such a delay, House and Senate
leaders, who have a personal stake in the outcome, could push for a vote
on a salary increase plan before Jan. 7.
"Here’s why the timing is critical:
State law prohibits public officials from participating in matters in
which they have a financial interest in the “reasonably foreseeable”
future. But if the raises for House speaker and Senate president are
approved before the end of the current session — and before the 2015-16
speaker and president are officially elected by their colleagues — the
incoming officials could have access to the increases.
"Likewise, the cost-of-living raises for
rank-and-file lawmakers might be delayed unless they’re approved this
"The issue is particularly important for
House Speaker Robert DeLeo and incoming Senate President Stanley
Rosenberg, both of whom could see significant pay hikes. . . .
"The seven-member compensation panel,
whose existence and work had gained little notice despite several public
hearings, was also charged by the legislative leadership to consider a
change in biannual cost of living raises for rank and file legislators
that, if adopted, would give them a $4,000 raise — larger than one set
by the current system, which has been controversial.
"If the new formula is approved,
lawmakers could get a raise to $63,994 this January above their current
"A preliminary report issued the day
after the Nov. 4 election makes it clear that the panel is indeed
charged with building a case for significant upward adjustments."
Bay State legislators’ base salary, after their recent 4.1 percent pay
raise, is now $62,547. This makes them the sixth-highest paid state
legislators in the nation, even without their additional leadership and
committee pay, expenses, and per diems.
Now legislative leaders are looking for ways to end-run the constitution
to boost their pay even more.
Promises once upon a time were made to be kept, you could judge a man by
his word. The Legislature’s 1989 promise that the income tax hike would
be “temporary” opened the door to broken legislative promises. That
unkept promise is now 28-years old, though thanks to CLT’s 2000 ballot
question it’s heading in the right direction, despite the Legislature
“temporarily freezing” our rollback in 2002. The income tax rate still
hasn’t returned to its historic 5 percent. Maybe it will before the
broken promise reaches its third decade, over a generation broken.
Unfortunately, Barbara Anderson, the champion of our successful rollback
campaign sixteen years ago, didn’t live long enough to see it.
Let’s see what happens with the Legislature’s 1998 constitutional
promise that “A ‘Yes’ vote will prohibit
legislators from voting themselves across-the-board pay raises.”
columnist Jeff Jacoby noted in his column of Dec. 3, 2014 (Mass.
lawmakers’ unlawful scheme to hike pay):
“. . . The amendment passed handily. Lawmakers looked forward
complacently to receiving automatic biennial raises as a constitutional
right, forever. And sure enough, their salaries went up by a few
percentage points every two years, in keeping with the amendment’s
explicit formula adjusting legislative pay in tandem with median
“Until median household income stopped going up in the wake of the Great
“In 2011, legislative base pay was trimmed by 0.5 percent. In 2013 it
dropped by another 1.8 percent. After a decade of scoring regular raises
without having to do anything to justify them — hey, it’s in the
constitution! — the Legislature was suddenly confronted with the reality
that salaries can go down, too.
“But that’s not a reality every lawmaker is prepared to accept. And —
surprise, surprise — their “advisory commission” says they shouldn’t
have to. The panel recommends a new method of calculating changes in
Massachusetts state income, one that relies on statewide income data “in
the aggregate, not the median.” That may sound boringly technical, but
the bottom line is crystal-clear: The commission’s recommended method
would have raised legislators’ pay in 2011 and 2013.
“But aggregate income isn’t what the constitution specifies. The
amendment drafted by the Legislature — and approved by the voters in a
landslide — made “median income” the touchstone. It forbids lawmakers
from voting for anything else. Beacon Hill, for once, has been hoist
with its own petard.
“Assuming, that is, that in Massachusetts, the constitution rules. Does
That is the critical question before members of the Joint Committee on
Ways and Means tomorrow, and all legislators in the days ahead.
In Massachusetts, does the constitution rule ― or does it not?
# # #
Citizens for Limited Taxation ▪ PO
Box 1147 ▪ Marblehead, MA 01945