Gov. Mitt Romney and House Republicans are taking a pass on
controversial pay hikes for lawmakers, refusing to tangle with Speaker Thomas M. Finneran
over his plan to reward top lieutenants with bonuses.
Finneran is poised today to push through a measure giving
him unlimited power to pass out bonuses to favored lawmakers, easily swatting aside
opposition from a tiny band of dissident Democrats.
But the powerful speaker will get no fight from the new
governor who railed against "business as usual" on Beacon Hill during the campaign.
Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said the governor would
not weigh in on the issue since it involves, "how the House organizes itself. When the
governor files his reorganization plan for the executive branch, he hopes for the
Rep. James Marzilli Jr. (D-Arlington), a Finneran foe, said,
"You can count on (the pay hikes) happening. The House Republicans are tanking, it sounds like
(Romney) is diving in the tank too and we may not even have enough votes to
force a roll call."
On Monday, Finneran tried to slip a bill past House members
that would clear the way for pay hikes of $7,500 each for at least six chairmen and vice
chairmen of House committees.
Rep. Frank M. Hynes (D-Marshfield) is the only member who
would actually take a $7,500 cut if the plan is not approved because he is switching from a
committee that pays him a $15,000 stipend to one that currently pays $7,500.
"This is awkward for me," Hynes said. "I didn't ask for
The measure would give Senate President Robert E. Travaglini
the same expanded power of the purse and would strip the governor of the ability to say
The Republican leader in the Senate, Brian P. Lees of East
Longmeadow, said that each chamber should be able to set its own rules but that legislative pay
raises - especially during the state budget crisis - should not be so stealthy.
"This would take away the procedures by which these stipend
increases see the light of day. You should never try to hide these kinds of things," he said.
The deafening silence from House Republican leaders
yesterday was taken as a sign that they have already sided with Finneran because they stand to gain.
As he increases stipends for his committee leaders, he is
also likely to boost the pay of the ranking Republicans on those committees.
None of the four House Republican leaders returned phone
calls yesterday. "They are hiding because they've already cut a deal with the speaker - once
again proving that the real loyal opposition in the House are the progressive
Democrats," Marzilli said.
The opposition - defined loosely as the 17 House Democratic
members who voted last month to replace Finneran as speaker with Rep. Byron Rushing -
caught Finneran Monday as he tried to push through the pay-raise bill.
Rep. Jay R. Kaufman (D-Lexington) objected. "I wish I could
say I was surprised by this but I've learned to play defense," he said.
Finneran's only comment yesterday was issued in a press
release, saying, "It is always a challenge to retain gifted and productive members. The best
members develop expertise, institutional knowledge and personal credibility.
They represent the future of Massachusetts."
Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation praised
House liberals for standing up to Finneran.
"This is a snapshot of what is wrong with Beacon Hill, this
craving for more and more power ... and the Republicans are just as much a part of the problem as
anyone else," she said.
Elisabeth J. Beardsley contributed to this report.
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The MetroWest Daily News
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
Pay raises raise eyebrows
By Michael Kunzelman
Two MetroWest lawmakers could collect pay raises under a
controversial plan that House Speaker Thomas Finneran quietly tried to gavel through this week.
Finneran's plan would allow state Rep. Peter
Koutoujian, D-Newton, to earn an extra $15,000 for his new post as chairman
of the Health Care Committee, according to Democratic House members.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Paul Loscocco, R-Holliston, could
collect an additional $7,500 for being the ranking Republican on the Transportation Committee,
Finneran introduced the pay raises in the form of a
late-filed bill, which he tried to admit in the House on a voice vote Monday.
But Finneran agreed to temporarily shelve the bill after a
group of liberal legislators, led by state Rep. Jay Kaufman, objected to the move at the end of
the session. Finneran had said minutes earlier that no controversial items
remained, the group said.
Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat, said Finneran didn't tell
legislators about the proposed pay hikes when House Democrats met in a closed-door caucus earlier
in the day.
"It strikes me as a little unfathomable and a little bit odd
that it would even be tried," he said.
State Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, said she found it
disturbing that Finneran didn't share his plan with the entire House.
"Why be sneaky about it? Why does everything have to be done
this way? It's insulting to the members," she said.
Up to six Democrats who serve on Finneran's leadership team
could receive pay raises, while an unspecified number of Republicans with high-ranking
committee assignments also could earn a salary boost, lawmakers said.
Finneran's bill doesn't specify which lawmakers would
receive raises. His spokesman, Charles Rasmussen, said the speaker hasn't proposed raises for
any particular legislator.
"It's still up in the air," Rasmussen said. "The speaker
hasn't put forward a specific proposal yet. All the speaker proposed yesterday was a legal
change...so that anything having to do with stipends would only be brought up
in joint rules."
However, Democratic House members said Koutoujian and Rep.
Joseph Wagner, who was promoted this week to chairman of the Transportation
Committee, both would receive $15,000 raises for their new assignments,
doubling the previous amount of extra pay for chairmen.
The bill also would award $7,500 raises to four committee
In past years, when a committee's vice chairman received a
raise, the ranking Republicans also earned a boost in pay by the same amount, lawmakers said.
Although it's unclear whether Loscocco would be entitled to
a pay raise, lawmakers said state Rep. Frank Hynes, D-Marshfield, is in line for a $7,500
raise for serving as vice chairman of the Transportation Committee.
Loscocco could receive the same salary increase for being
the ranking Republican on the same committee.
Neither Loscocco nor Koutoujian could be reached for comment
Democrats said House Republican leaders didn't try to block
"I know for a fact that they signed off on it," Kaufman
said. "I was told they had no problem with it."
House Minority Leader Bradley Jones didn't return a
telephone call seeking comment yesterday.
Finneran said the pay hikes wouldn't cost the state more
money because his leadership team identified certain cost-saving measures, such as renegotiating
its contract with WGBH to televise House sessions, lawmakers said.
Some critics, however, questioned why Finneran would seek
pay raises for some lawmakers while the state is mired in a budget crisis.
"I think we can only assume that the speaker benefits when
there are more people dependent on him for their livelihood," Balser said.
State Rep. Patricia Walrath, a Stow Democrat and close
Finneran ally, rejected claims that Finneran tried to sneak the bill past members.
"I don't know how specific he was, but I know he mentioned
it," she said.
Another member of Finneran's leadership team, state Rep.
Marie Parente, said it should have been clear to every House member that new committee
chairmen and vice chairmen would earn raises.
"(Finneran) explained that there would be new committees,"
Parente, a Milford Democrat, said. "Unless you're in the first grade, you know a new
chairman is going to be paid."
Last month, about half of the 160 House members opted to
turn down an automatic 6.5 percent pay raise that lawmakers were entitled to receive this
year. Finneran left it up to each legislator to decide whether to accept the
"Asking members to take a voluntary salary furlough while
we're being asked to approve pay increases for others is, on the face of it, offensive," Balser said.
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The Boston Herald
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
A Boston Herald editorial
Focus on priorities instead of payback
Sometimes you just have to shake your head. House Speaker
Tom Finneran (D-Mattapan) scored some points with his liberal detractors last week when, in
responding to Gov. Mitt Romney's budget address, he waxed eloquently about
budget priorities such as health care and literacy that deserved protection.
Now he has re-energized his critics by banishing legislative opponents to a
dust-covered legislative committee and pushing a backdoor pay raise for six of
Fine, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Finneran is moving
to consolidate his power by sending his opponents to the legislative equivalent of Siberia and
putting his own loyalists into committee leadership positions.
Remember that adage from Emerson, "When you strike at a
king, you must kill him"?
Well, King Finneran didn't even suffer a superficial wound
in the latest coup attempt and his opponents will have to accept their fate in his legislative
kingdom. But with state services for the poor and the disabled on the chopping
block, Finneran goes too far in trying to sneak raises through for his
leadership team by adding stipends for some posts and increasing stipends for others.
Regardless of whether the raises would result in an increase
in House expenditures - Finneran says they won't because of other savings - this is an
ill-timed move and Republican House members should join the effort to derail
We also think a nice long walk in the fresh air would help
Finneran clear his head and get his priorities straight. Instead of pay raises and power moves, he
should devote his considerable leadership skills to gathering support for
Romney's budget plan.
The Legislature has $143 million worth of cuts on its plate
to consider. Throwing the ball back into Romney's court because it may take, as Finneran
put it, "a few, several, many weeks to get through some, if not all, of the
elements" of the governor's plan is shirking responsibility.
There is too much work to do to squander time or energy on
palace intrigue. Finneran and his supporters and foes in the House of Representatives should
get to it.
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The Boston Globe
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
A Boston Globe editorial
House Speaker Thomas Finneran is showing himself once again
to be a man of metal -- with an iron fist and a tin ear. On Monday, after making committee
assignments that further reward supporters and punish dissenters, Finneran
told House members that nothing controversial would be taken up for the rest
of the day. Then he attempted to gavel through admission of a late-filed bill to
increase his power -- already unparalleled -- to reward his loyalists with
The small group of Democrats who have been critical of
Finneran stopped the effort Monday, but John Stefanini, the speaker's top aide, said yesterday he will
try again, either today or "sometime in the near future."
Finneran, who already appoints some 41 House Democrats to
positions with elevated pay -- mostly $7,500 or $15,000 above their $53,381 base salaries --
wants to add eight more to the list. And he wants to change the law so future
raises for his team can be given out internally with no need for legislation
that could be vetoed by the governor or challenged by voters.
Finneran already has tighter control of his House than any
other legislative leader in the country. This is another example of his autocratic excess, and it
should be resisted by all representatives whose constituents value independence.
What adds an element of shock in this case is the timing.
With the state facing enormous budget deficits this year and next, Finneran seems more intent on
slipping a bonus to a handful of his spear carriers than on rolling up his sleeves
and helping to solve the deficit problem.
Last year Finneran labored to warn citizens of the fiscal
peril that the state was beginning to experience. He deserved respect for tackling the problem
head-on, skillfully pulling together enough votes to pass a moderate tax
increase and use reserve funds and program cuts to solve most of the problem.
Now he seems to be tossing that hard-won credibility out the
window. The $45,000 to $50,000 that he wants to dole out to his friends while other state
workers face higher fees and layoffs is one nasty symbol. Another is his decision
to give the House two February weeks off, starting Friday, instead of the usual
Some cynical Democrats would be happy to see Mitt Romney,
the new Republican governor, struggle to solve the budget crisis on his own. But the
Legislature should not take a pass while the state's needy are threatened. As
Representative Jim Marzilli of Arlington said: "We will have been in session for
two months, and the only thing we will have to show for it is raising a few
members' pay." Representative Paul Demakis of the Back Bay said Finneran
survives because "whenever there's a furor, it dies down."
Finneran may rule the House, but he does not rule the state,
which has a right to expect more in times of crisis.
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The New Bedford Standard-Times
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
Taxes are part of nurturing our civilization
"It's going to be ugly," Michael Widmer, the president of
the fiscally conservative Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told the editorial board of
The Standard-Times yesterday.
These were his words when asked to predict what the next few
months will be like as a smart, accomplished new governor and the Legislature attempt to
close a budget gap for this year and next year that has not been this large since
Although reluctant to criticize Gov. Mitt Romney at this
early stage, Mr. Widmer does not believe that the new governor can close an estimated $2
billion to $3 billion gap expected in 2003-04 without seeking some tax
increases, among other strategies. Mr. Widmer's organization has advocated
that all revenue-raising and expense-cutting strategies be placed on the
table so state leaders can devise the fairest, most reasonable recovery plan.
Instead, he expects that Gov. Romney, who has pledged to
never raise taxes, will deliver one of the most radical budgets ever seen on Feb. 26. Then the
public and Legislature will react. And out of this angry dialectic will come some
strategy for hanging on to the most important functions of state government.
Mr. Widmer points out that 90 percent of the state budget
supports education, human services, public safety and health care for the poor and disabled. These
are not frills.
No matter how brilliantly Gov. Romney reorganizes state
government to cut out any waste, he will not be able to make $2 billion to $3 billion in savings to
make up the projected deficit.
So Gov. Romney's yet-to-be seen budget will cut to the bone
of what we as Bay Staters have decided over the years is a responsibility of our government and
worth paying taxes for. We have come to a strange time in our nation's history
when it is highly fashionable to be against any taxes for anything.
Mr. Widmer traces the seeds of this attitude to the Reagan
presidency of the 1980s, when Americans embraced his optimistic attitude that we should have
only minimal government involvement in domestic programs. During the Reagan-George
H.W. Bush years, we saw the federal government shed responsibility for many services and the states pick up that responsibility in
some cases. We also saw the beginnings of a trend that has accelerated: the
polarization of wealth and poverty.
This polarization goes hand-in-hand nicely with the anti-tax
philosophy. As the rich get further from the poor, there is less empathy for those who struggle in
our country for medical care, jobs, quality education and safe communities.
It is unfortunate that we will have to wait for Gov. Romney
to present a budget that we expect will truly hurt the poor, elderly, young, jobless and struggling in
our society for us to wake up. We hope our leaders will then level with us that
there is a need to pay taxes to support a civilized, compassionate society. We
cannot go on deluding ourselves that taxes can be continually cut and civilization can still be nurtured.