The Boston Herald
Friday, April 14, 2000
House passes gov's council $$ hike
by Ellen J. Silberman
Despite the Big Dig crisis and cuts in
special education, House lawmakers yesterday quietly rammed through yet another pay raise
bill -- a 60 percent hike for the much-ridiculed Governor's Council.
The part-time council, a vestige of
colonial government, meets for just 30 minutes a week to approve judicial appointments.
The eight-member body has often been criticized as a rubber stamp for the governor.
Despite the body's light work load, House
leadership gaveled through a $10,000-a-year raise yesterday afternoon, bringing the
councilors' pay from $15,600 to $25,000 a year.
"It's indefensible," said one
House Democrat of the latest pay raise to pass through the chamber with no debate.
"We're the only people who are making (Gov.) Paul Cellucci and (Lt. Gov.) Jane Swift
The councilors' raises were added to a
House budget that already adds more than $1 million to lawmakers' take home pay by
doubling their office budgets and "per diem" travel expenses.
Cellucci, Swift and the four other
constitutional office holders got $40,000 plus raises in January.
And before the $21.7 billion fiscal 2001
budget leaves the House floor it could include $7,500 in extra cash for two dozen of
Finneran's closest allies.
"It seems like it's the season of
largess on Beacon Hill," said Ken White, executive director of Common Cause of
Massachusetts. "Everybody seems to be getting a pay raise one way or another."
The raise for the Governor's Council came
the same day the Senate approved a $2.4 billion bailout for the troubled Big Dig.
"With what we're facing with
deficits in transportation, with the cuts that they're proposing in special education.
It's untenable," said Nancy Carapezza, president of the Massachusetts League of Women
Voters. "This is what makes the citizens of the commonwealth believe that things are
being done behind their backs."
The House earlier this week approved a
plan to drastically curtail spending on the most disabled special education students.
While outsiders are willing to criticize
the council, lawmakers, many of them lawyers who someday hope to be confirmed by the body,
were reluctant to discuss the pay hike.
"I don't want to ruin my judicial
appointment (but) what do we need them for?" asked one lawyer-lawmaker.
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran
(D-Mattapan) rejected the idea that the House was on a spending "binge"
declaring that the chamber was showing "great restraint" in rejecting many of
the 1,400 budget amendments.
"We have not overspent our revenues
in this budget," he said.
A budget amendment, which had not been
voted early last night, would pad the paychecks of 24 legislative chairmen, vice chairmen
and ranking minority members. That would give more than half the House members leadership
positions with extra pay.
The proposed amendment upping legislative
chairmen's pay also gives Finneran the power to create new positions with extra pay.
"It's a way to increase
loyalty," said White. "There'll be as many players as there will be coaches if
this goes through."
But Finneran said: "It's a very
modest stipend or salary to do what I think most people accept is an important job."
Several of the eight Governor's Council
members, who are elected every two years, also have high-profile full-time jobs.
Christopher Iannella Jr., (D-Boston), son
of the late former Boston City Councilor Christopher Iannella Sr., is a personal injury
lawyer who runs prominent practice in Boston. Iannella often appears in front of the
judges he confirms.
Iannella's brother, Richard, is the
Suffolk County Register of Probate.
Another councilor, Edward O'Brien
(D-Easthampton), is the father of State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien. The elder O'Brien is
also a lawyer.
Councilor Patricia Dowling also
moonlights as the mayor of Lawrence.
Another councilor, Kelly Timility, is the
daughter of former Boston mayoral candidate Joseph Timilty.
Noting that judges serve for life,
Finneran said the fact that the council approves most of the governor's nominees shows
just how effective the body is.
But others called the raise and the
"The governor's council ... has
outlived its usefulness," Carapezza said.
If the House raise goes through, it will
be the second time the Governor's Council members have gotten a pay boost in the past four
In 1996, lawmakers increased their pay
from $10,400 to the current level of $15,600. Councilors also get coveted Beacon Hill
parking spaces and generous state health insurance benefits.
The latest raises still require Senate
approval and sign off by the governor before taking effect.