The Boston Herald
Tuesday, April 11, 2000
Pay raise for House leadership proposed
by Ellen J. Silberman
Two dozen of House Speaker Thomas M.
Finneran's closest allies would see their pay jump by $7,500 under a proposal the House is
slated to consider this week.
The raises, doled out to the chairmen,
vice chairmen and ranking minority members scattered across a dozen committees, come on
top of a plan to double the "per diem" travel expenses and office budgets of
every member of the Legislature.
The amendment also leaves the door open
for Finneran, a Mattapan Democrat, and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham (D-Chelsea)
to create new chairmanships and offer $7,500 bonuses to whomever they please. The
leadership pay raise proposal is tucked in an amendment to the House's $21.7 billion
fiscal 2001 budget. The amendment, number 1401 of 1433, rests at the "back of the
can" where it could linger with little scrutiny awaiting swift and silent passage.
The budget, always hard to follow because
of the rapid-fire approval and rejection of dozens of amendments at a time, is even more
so this year since WGBH is not broadcasting the evening session.
But State House sources predicted the
measure would not survive the light of day.
"If you report it, it won't happen.
If you don't report it, it will happen," said a source.
Among those who would benefit from the
change is the sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Anthony Giglio (D-Medford), vice chairman of
the Science and Technology Committee and a member of the powerful budget-writing Ways and
Means Committee. Giglio, who could not be reached for comment last night, would see his
pay jump from $46,410 to $53,910 a year.
House Transportation Committee Chairman
Joseph Sullivan (D-Braintree), who is responsible for oversight of the Big Dig, would see
his pay jump from $53,910 to $61,410.
In other budget news, the House yesterday
easily approved a plan to freeze the gas tax at 21 cents, bringing Gov. Paul Cellucci's
plan a step closer to reality.
"It makes no sense to start whacking
people with more gas taxes (when prices are rising)," said Assistant Minority Leader
Ronald Gauch (R-Shrewsbury). "It's irresponsible that we would even consider
Taxation Committee Chairman John Rogers
(D-Norwood) agreed, saying it was time to undo a tax passed during the 1980s.
The near unanimous vote -- 149-6 -- came
on the first day of debate on the House budget.
In a victory for Finneran, lawmakers
affirmed his plan to allow cities and towns to cut services for disabled students by
switching to the tighter federal standards for special education.
After a week of lobbying by advocates and
nearly two hours of debate, the House voted 105-48 to keep Finneran's less-generous plan
House debates are scheduled to run from
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day this week.
Monday, April 10, 2000
Plan would allow more teachers to retire earlier
By Jean McMillan
BOSTON (AP) Backers of hiking early
retirement benefits for teachers are banking on a scaled-down proposal to make it into law
They argue the move would allow veteran
teachers to retire with dignity while infusing classrooms with younger, newer teachers who
would be working at lower salaries.
But critics say the measure is too costly
and would drain too many teachers from the system at a time when educators are in great
"I'm not going to support any
legislation that's going to allow thousands and thousands of our best teachers to leave
when we need them the most," said Gov. Paul Cellucci on Monday. "I'll look at
this, but it doesn't sound to me that it's improved things."
Under the plan, retirement benefits for
teachers would be increased by 2 percent for every year they serve after 24 years.
But unlike last year's measure, teachers
would have to put in 30 years of service before being able to take advantage of the
benefit and would have to contribute 11 percent of their salary for at least five years,
instead of three.
Rep. John Slattery, D-Peabody, sponsor of
the measure, estimated that it would cost $49 million a year, down from the estimated $145
million that last year's plan would have cost.
Slattery estimated 3,000 to 6,000 a year
would take advantage of it.
Pensions are capped at 80 percent of
annual salary and are based on years of service and age.
Slattery filed the plan as an amendment
to the budget being debated this week by the House, but said it may instead be taken up as
a separate bill as soon as this week.
He said the measure was a compromise
between the unions and the House leadership.
Last year, the proposal passed the House
and Senate, was vetoed by Cellucci, and was not taken up for an override by the House.
Slattery said that he hoped that with
House Speaker Thomas Finneran's support, this year's plan would become law.
"I think this bill certainly goes a
long way to treating the long-term service more fairly," said Stephen Gorrie, head of
the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Gorrie said the measure would encourage
would-be teachers here and stem the flow of teachers to competing states, including
Connecticut and Rhode Island.
But Administration and Finance Secretary
Andrew Natsios said other states have learned that early retirement incentives can
backfire. In a letter to legislators, Natsios said other states have been forced to hire
back retired teachers, paying them both retirement benefits and regular salaries.
Slattery said his proposal includes a
two-year "buffer" during which teachers could not be hired back. After that, he
said, they could be hired as mentors to younger teachers or as regular classroom teachers.
The Telegram & Gazette
Monday, April 10, 2000
Cellucci proposal deserves legislative support
Gov. Paul Cellucci made his latest pitch
for an income tax rollback before the Taxation Committee this week and, as expected, got a
His plan, which would make good on a
longstanding legislative commitment to roll back the state income tax rate to 5 percent,
is slated to go before the voters on the Nov. 7 ballot. Last year the Legislature voted to
cut the tax from 5.95 percent to 5.85 percent in January of this year and to 5.75 percent
in January of 2001.
Lawmakers' resistance to income tax
relief has become increasingly difficult to justify. The treasury is overflowing and the
Legislature has tucked away billions of dollars in various contingency funds.
The excuses are becoming increasingly
transparent. Last year they argued against a tax cut because of health and education
priorities, this year it's the Big Dig.
Rolling back the income tax would spur
economic activity and directly benefit working families.
The House fiscal 2001 budget proposal
underscores the hazards of maintaining an overheated revenue stream. Lawmakers seem
determined to spend every cent that comes in. Every special interest group -- this week
it's the Massachusetts Hospital Association -- is looking for a bigger piece of the pie.
It was similar wallowing in unsustainable
spending in the 1980s that led to the ill-fated Massachusetts Miracle. The Legislature was
forced to impose a "temporary" income tax increase to help the state recover
from that fiscal crisis.
The crisis is long past. If the
Legislature fails to roll back the rate, voters will do it for them this fall.