The Eagle-Tribune
Lawrence, Mass.
Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Sows at the public trough

Legislators are seeking to line their own pockets
at our expense

On any given morning, Interstate 93 is packed with people from the Merrimack Valley driving to their jobs in Boston.

Most of them are not being paid for the miles they drive to get to work -- most, that is, except for state legislators.

You see, in the real world that you and we inhabit, getting to work is our own responsibility.

But state legislators from the Valley and the rest of the state see things differently. They feel getting them to work is the responsibility of the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

Legislators get a "per diem" travel allowance for their commutes to Boston that varies with the distance they live from the Statehouse. Legislators from Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill get $13 a day. Those from towns closer to Boston  like Andover and North Reading -- get $9 a day.

But that's no longer enough.

There is a provision in the state budget currently working its way through the House to double the per diem travel reimbursements.

The proposal also includes a doubling -- to $7,200 a year -- of the money legislators receive to run their offices and provide "constituent service." That's a fancy term for the slush fund legislators use to be seen as great guys or gals. When you or we feel a need to donate to a charitable cause, we make sacrifices and take the money from our personal funds. Not so legislators. They get to be generous by handing out public money to their favorite causes.

And there's also a plan to give "key" Beacon Hill legislators an extra $7,500 a year in pay in addition to their base salaries of $46,410 and the $7,500 bonuses received by committee chairmen.

All this is on top of the automatic pay raises legislators voted themselves last year.


These latest outrages come as legislators are telling us common folk we have to tighten our belts because of cost overruns at the Big Dig. "Lifetime" driver's licenses and auto registration are gone and there's just no money to reduce the state income tax to its "permanent" level of 5 percent, they say.

Legislators say their increases are necessary because a new campaign finance law passed by voters limits their ability to spend and raise money.


If public service is too much of a sacrifice for these money-grubbers, let them find gainful employment in the private sector.

We've had enough of them lining their own pockets at our expense.

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