CLT Update
Tuesday, January 3, 2001

Enjoying your pay-raise today?

I hope you're all enjoying the seven percent pay-raise your boss is giving you today!

You ask, "What pay-raise?"

Oh that's right, you're not a representative of the people, so unlike legislators, you don't get an automatic, constitutionally-mandated pay-raise just for showing up.

The problem with how legislative leaders drafted their constitutional amendment a few years back is, there are no statistics on "median household income" available on the previous year until September of the following year; even the raw data isn't available until March. Yet, their pay-raise in January is predicated on the increase or decrease in median household income for the previous two years.

This is then left to the governor to, somehow, "ascertain."

Apparently, from what we've been told, the governor will use the hard numbers from 1999 (from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released last September), estimate the figure for 2000, "ascertain" as best that he can the rate of increase (or decrease) of legislators' salaries  -- then, when the official numbers are released in September, adjust their salaries again, retroactively.

At least legislators have given up the attempt to redefine median household income. That was just a little too over the edge even for them!

As ridiculous as a constitutionally mandated pay-raise is, just remember: Voters had a chance to stop it on the ballot in 1998, but instead 1,170,031 bought into it, against the 538,729 of us who voted it down.

I think we need a recount to determine "voter intent," don't you?

Chip Ford

January 2, 2001

For Immediate Release
Contact: Chip Ford - (781) 631-6842 or
Barbara Anderson - (508) 384-0100

2001: A State House Pay Hike Odyssey --
Constitutional crisis looms as legislators pursue
their badly-drafted constitutional amendment for a pay-raise

The Massachusetts state constitution requires that the governor ascertain the correct pay-raise for legislators tomorrow, based on the median household income for the two previous years. Unfortunately, the data to make this determination is not available until March.

The constitutional amendment, drafted and placed on the 1998 ballot by the Massachusetts Legislature, reads as follows:

"The base compensation as of January 1, 1996, of members of the general court shall not be changed except as provided in this article. As of the first Wednesday of January, 2001, and every second year thereof, the base compensation would 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."

The voters, apparently inspired by the argument that legislators could no longer vote themselves a pay-raise, approved the amendment. CLT opposed it on the grounds that pay issues should not be in the constitution and besides, the Legislature would find ways around it. Sure enough, the Massachusetts House increased its annual per diem during the Animal House session last spring.

Further, according to a yesterday's report in the MetroWest Daily News, legislative leaders are unhappy that the median household income does not rise fast enough, and would like to change the defining data to leave lower-income households out of the equation. Note to leaders: there is no way to change the constitution without another amendment on the ballot.

Note to those who think that initiative petitions are bad because "amateurs" are drafting legislation: this ballot question was drafted by legislative leaders and placed on the ballot by the House and Senate meeting in constitutional convention -- apparently without first checking what "median household income" means or what the time frame is for knowing it. Median household income numbers are available tomorrow for 1999 ... but not 2000.

"Ascertain" means "to determine definitely by test or examination, to determine with certainty." It does not mean "to estimate." So how can the governor do his constitutional duty? Any suggestions, Hal?

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Raise awaits state legislators
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

The 200 state lawmakers return to work today with a 7 percent, $3,300 pay increase, imposed automatically under a new constitutional amendment promoted by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and approved by voters in 1998.

Under the amendment, which takes effect this month, Governor Paul Cellucci is required to report to House and Senate members that their $46,410-per-year salaries will grow to nearly $50,000 because of an increase in the state's median household income over the past two years.

The pay raise comes less than six months after the legislators doubled their office expense accounts and doubled their per diem reimbursements during last summer's budget session -- with no public hearing or debate. The office accounts increased by $3,600.

Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government, said yesterday that voters should not have fallen for the Legislative leaders' arguments that lawmakers should not set their own salaries.

"It was a very very bad idea for the voters to give constitutionally guaranteed pay raises to legislators," Anderson said. "We should not have pay issues in the constitution."

Anderson said legislators, like employees in private business, should have to prove they are worth the extra pay.

"None of the rest of us are getting constitutionally guaranteed pay raises," Anderson said. "Other people who work all year around don't get this kind of raise. They have to go in and ask and prove they have been productive."

Finneran pushed the amendment through the House and Senate in 1996. At the time, Anderson and others charged the lawmakers were trying to "dupe" voters into ensuring automatic adjustments in their legislative pay under the guise of taking the salary issue out of the Legislature's hands.

The amendment was proposed after the angry backlash that accompanied then-Governor William F. Weld's deal with legislative leaders in a lame-duck session in December 1994 to approve a 55 percent pay increase for Senate and House members.

In return, the Democratic leadership quietly and without a rollcall vote approved Weld's capital gains tax cut. Both Weld and the legislative leaders denied there was any deal, but sources have since confirmed that such an agreement -- that included the Republican legislative leadership -- had been reached.

In debate, Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham argued the volatile issue of legislative compensation should be taken out of the hands of legislators and be tied to the performance of the state economy.

Legislative pay has always been a hot-button issue, with the lawmakers frequently agonizing over the politically risky move of approving increases for themselves. Legislators have lost seats over the issue and voters have angrily repealed past pay increases.

Under the terms of the amendment, the legislative salaries fall and rise according to the median household income in the state.

Administration officials said they have not yet determined the exact increase, since official figures won't be available until September, but sources said the governor is expected to determine it will be 7 percent, based on economic statistics relating to household income.

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