More Pork Proposed for Pols

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan) rejected the idea that the House was on a spending "binge" declaring ... "We have not overspent our revenues in this budget."

House passes gov's council $$ hike
The Boston Herald
Apr. 14, 2000

TRANSLATION: We haven't spent all your money yet ...
but we're working day and night on it!


We're keeping score:

  • $40,000-plus raises in January for all constitutional officeholders;

  • More than $1 million added to legislator's take home pay by doubling their office budgets and "per diem" travel expenses;

  • $7,500 increased "followership" bonuses for two dozen of Speaker Finneran's closest cronies along with the creation of more bonused "followership" positions for him and senate President Birmingham to dole our on a whim. ("Too many chiefs and not enough Indians"?)

  • Yesterday, a $10,000-a-year raise proposed for the Governor's Council.

Everyone on Bacon Hill is getting fat pay raises -- but there's no money for the taxpayers, not enough money to keep their promise, we're told.

"Every tax is a pay cut -- A tax cut is a pay raise."

In November, we've got to make sure we get our pay raise. If we don't do it ourselves, obviously no one else will!

If we're able to finally keep their broken promise and roll back the income tax rate, our "pay raise" won't amount to thousands of dollars a year, like theirs ... but even our average $500 a year will help!

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Chip Ford

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 look good."

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 council unwarranted.

"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 years.

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.

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