CLT Update
Monday, January 1, 2001

Greed again stalks empty Statehouse corridors

Welcome to the New Year, the New Millennium
but ...
"The more things change,
the more they remain the same."

"It all depends on what the definition of 'is' is."

While you were looking the other way, enjoying this holiday season, the Bacon Hill Bandits were doing what they do best ... plotting to pick our pockets again.

Remember that constitutional amendment they put on the ballot in 1998, the one that allegedly prevents them from ever again giving themselves another pay-raise?

Remember how we warned it was trickery, that it wouldn't prevent them from grabbing more cash for themselves (see our warnings below if you don't)?

Remember how we warned they would become the only human beings in the history of the world to have constitutionally mandated pay increases?

Remember we warned that once they had their way with the voters and got what they wanted, they'd find others ploys to raid the treasury and enrich themselves?

In 1999, it was a threatened increase in "leadership pay" (which we helped stop).

Last year it was their adopted increase of "per diem" office expenses for legislators.

Call your state representative and senator and ask them to explain to you this new floating definition of "median household income" that's seemingly contrary to the U.S. Census Bureau's clear definitions (below).

We start this new year and the new millennium again being proved right with out predictions. No big thing, really. There's one thing certain we can count on with the Bacon Hill Cabal: They're just so darned predictable.

Chip Ford

The MetroWest Daily News
Sunday, December 31, 2000
Political Desk

Legislature seeks pay hike loophole
By David Caruso
News Staff Writer

Voters sick and tired of politicians secretly giving themselves huge pay raises passed a constitutional amendment in 1998 permanently tying legislative pay to the median household income.

The new law reads like this: If the economy is doing great, and household income goes up, lawmakers get themselves a nice little pay hike.

If the state goes into the tank and incomes drop, they get their pay cut.

Legislators loved this idea when it went to the polls, figuring the good economy would keep the cash coming, and since the hikes were automatic they could spare themselves the intense political pain of having to raise their own pay.

But lawmakers who have taken a look at this year's numbers apparently don't like what they see, and are trying to find some wiggle room in the constitution.

Specifically, House and Senate leaders disappointed with the financial performance of the median household in 2000 have been angling for months to get the administration to set raises on a different standard: income for a family of four.

The difference is a big one.

According to the US Census bureau, median household income in Massachusetts went up a paltry 2 percent between 1998 and 1999, and had actually dropped four fifths of a percent the year before -- a trend that, if continued, would mean little or no extra pay for legislators this year.

If, however, you throw out income data for all the unmarried, childless 20-somethings working for peanuts, then throw out poor single-moms with fewer than three kids, then throw out data for elderly couples, living on a fixed income, things suddenly look a whole lot brighter.

All that leaves is the average family of four -- and income for that generally middle-class group, the Census notes, has been rising at a healthy rate of 6 percent every year.

A hike of that size would put an extra $2,800 or so a year in the average House member's paycheck.

Meanwhile, if the median income numbers are used with no tweaking, they are unlikely to get half that amount.

Which set of numbers will be used is the subject of negotiations still taking place this week.

The new pay scale is supposed to take effect on Wednesday, Jan. 3, but it is unclear whether administration officials will be able to come up with an accurate income figure on time.

Census data on household income is not expected until March at the earliest, and the state's Department of Revenue will not have updated income figures until residents file their tax returns.

Analysts in Gov. Paul Cellucci's budget office may be forced to make an estimate for any pay change to go into effect by the end of January. They have been indicating for months that they are likely to suggest a raise of between 4 and 6 percent.

If the governor does see fit to authorize a pay hike, it will be the first time in state history that the legislature has had to rely on another branch of government to set its rate of compensation.

Interestingly, Cellucci is a Republican and the Legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic. But party is expected to play less of a role in the decision than one might think.

This Democratic legislature, it should be noted, had no problems giving pay hikes to Cellucci and his top cabinet members in the past two years.

Cellucci's own pay leapt by $45,000, thanks to the Legislature. His staff will be the group now making the decision whether or not to return the favor.

Right now, the base pay for Legislators is $46,410. On top of that, lawmakers in leadership positions get a bonus of at least $7,500. Some make thousands more than that. Lawmakers also take home a few grand per year to cover "expenses," though they are allowed to pocket the money if they do not spend it. They also get an annual travel stipend which can be worth a few thousand dollars, depending how far they live from Boston.

Much like the rest of us, legislators complain perennially that they are underpaid, considering that most must raise and spend between $30,000 and $150,000 every two years to finance their reelection campaigns.

Some also note that they would make tens of thousands of dollars more if they worked in the private sector as lawyers or lobbyists, and complain that they cannot make their State House gigs a full time job and still live comfortably.

Information for Voters
The 1998 Ballot Questions

Full Text of 1998 Ballot Questions


Proposal for a Legislative Amendment to the Constitution Relative to the Compensation of Members of the General Court

The base compensation as of January first, nineteen hundred and ninety-six, of members of the general court shall not be changed except as provided in this article. As of the first Wednesday in January of the year two thousand and one and every second year thereafter, such base compensation shall be increased or decreased at the same rate as increases or decreases in the median household income for the commonwealth for the preceding two year period, as ascertained by the governor.

CLT Blasts from the Past!

CLT&G News Release
October 1, 1998
CLT&G Informs Public About Question One

..."Question 1 deals only with base pay. Nothing will prevent legislative leaders from giving bonus pay to themselves and their favored, loyal legislative friends, on top of the constitutionally-guaranteed base pay and automatic pay-raises." ...

CLT&G 60-Second Radio Ad
Vote "NO" on Question One
October 30, 1998

"...If Question One passes, our legislators will be the only human beings in the history of the world to have constitutionally-guaranteed pay-raises.

"A NO vote on Question One will prevent this.

"A NO vote on Question One will preserve our constitution.

"Question One: Special rights just for politicians?

"No, no, noooo way!"

The following definitions are from the U.S. Census Bureau, though they apparently are in doubt on Beacon Hill these days:

Median:  The middle point in a distribution.

Median Income:  The median divides the income distribution into two equal parts, one having incomes above the median and the other having incomes below the median. For households and families, the median income is based on the distribution of the total number of units including those with no income.

Household Type and Relationship

Household:  A household includes all the people who are current residents of a housing unit.

A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters.

Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other people in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall. The occupants may be a single family, one person living alone, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated people who share living arrangements.

People Per Household: A measure obtained by dividing the number of people in households by the number of households.

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to:

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