Thursday, January 26, 2017

Governor needs to veto this arrogant pay grab

Contact:  Chip Faulkner, communications director ― 508-915-3665

Citizens for Limited Taxation calls on Governor Charlie Baker to veto the Legislature’s arrogant pay grab, if for no other reason than in a demand for transparency and accountability. At the very least he should return it with the judicial section separated from the other “adjustments.”

This legislative process, loosely defined, in pursuit of self-aggrandizement and personal profit has been a sham.  The only transparency has been its clear and obvious motive.

It was only a week ago that the “Special, Temporary” Joint Committee on Ways and Means held its sudden hearing.  It was “Special” and “Temporary” because anything else would preclude its leaders and members from receiving the soon-to-be-announced pay grab.  The “Special, Temporary” Committee resurrected and dusted off a two-year-old dormant report and abruptly held a hearing on its recommendations for “compensation adjustments.”  The hearing was announced just two days prior to it occurring, on last Thursday.

By stalling the appointments of committee chairmen, vice chairmen, and others with a stake in its outcome prior to the vote on this money grab bill it provided motivation for support of it by rank-and-file members with personal ambitions.

On Monday night the Senate amazingly released a 17-page pay grab bill (S.16), the House its 18-page bill (H.58) filed jointly by Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Rosenberg.  Apparently neither of the documents took very long to write ― or had already been prepared in advance of the committee’s recommendations, released on the same day.

No public hearings on the bill(s) were held prior to passage.  Obviously there was no time for such mundane niceties.

The preferred House bill, H. 58, doesn’t even pretend to follow the “Special Commission’s” recommendations.  The Special Commission’s recommendations were projected to cost “$934,343.”  The cost of this pay grab is estimated to cost over twenty times as much, $18 million.

An “emergency preamble” is attached to the bill, used when legislation is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety, or convenience” ― convenience is noted in this case ― that of legislators alone, not the public’s.  This prevents any repeal referendum from suspending the increases pending a potential vote by the citizens.

But that ploy turns out to be unnecessary, except to collect retroactive pay raises immediately, as the bill includes salary increases for judges.  Such an inclusion constitutionally precludes a referendum repeal of the law by the citizens of the Commonwealth.  No reference to judicial compensation whatsoever was made in the Special Commission’s recommendations.

With such careful thought and consideration given to the mechanics of this legislation, this certainly cannot be unintentional.  It is to insure that this pay grab is referendum-proof, preventing any kind of citizen input whatsoever, every step along the way, and beyond.

This obnoxious bill from inception to adoption blitzed through the House in two days, blazed through the Senate a day later ― likely an all-time speed record for such controversial, consequential legislation.

Governor Baker should veto this abomination – or at the very least return it with the judicial section separated from the other “adjustments.”

Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, concluded:  “These cynical actions demonstrate that when the leadership and enough beholding members in the Legislature want something badly enough ― they just take it.  Disguising it as something at all legitimate required a whole two days.”

Ford added:  “There was little if any trickery and manipulation that didn’t go into this shameless effort on behalf of legislative leadership and others with much to gain.”

A Bill of Particulars

●  Only two days between announcing the W&M Committee hearing and the hearing.

●  No public hearings on the actual pay grab bills.

●  Ethics/conflict of interest standards were dodged by stalling appointments of committee leaders prior to vote.

●  An emergency preamble is attached preventing a repeal referendum by the citizens from suspending the pay grab until voters have their say.

●  Pay hikes are made retroactive, and for current Legislators just elected.

●  The cost ($18 million) is over 20-times more than the “Special Commission’s” cost projection.

●  Includes pay hikes for judges, not a recommendation of the “Special Commission” but constitutionally prevents a repeal referendum by the citizens.

●  Passed by the House in two days, the Senate a day later.

What others have said

“Here’s hoping this legislative money-grab is a one-day event, and lawmakers focus on helping their constituents, instead of themselves.”

A Salem News editorial
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Push for Beacon Hill pay raises an unseemly grasp for taxpayer cash

“No matter what size pay hike they settle on, lawmakers need to slow down, allow ample time for the public to voice its sentiments, and stipulate that any pay hike won’t take effect until two years hence. If lawmakers don’t abide by the appropriate process, Governor Charlie Baker should cast a veto to stop any ill-considered rush for a raise.”

A Boston Globe editorial
Friday, January 20, 2017
Lawmakers need to slow down their pay hike push

“As much for their size as for any other reason, these increases portray an insulated legislature that has begun a new session by thinking of themselves - after election season is safely over. It's not the dollars attached but the insensitivity of the timing that makes this disturbing.

“Massachusetts lawmakers may think their constituents think differently than those elsewhere who voted for radical government change. If they someday discover they were wrong, they might remember this bill to understand why.”

A Springfield Republican editorial
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Legislative raises tone-deaf to public mood

“Baker’s best option is a veto. In addition to being the right thing to do, who knows, it might even breathe new fiscally conservative life into the House and Senate two years from now.”

A Boston Herald editorial
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Veto raises

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Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665