Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Wednesday, November 10, 1999


"Haley said a new campaign reform law, which provides incentives for candidates to limit campaign spending, will force elected officials to pay out of their own pockets for items that advance their political futures: charitable contributions, district offices, political travel, and tickets to community events."

The Boston Globe - Nov. 10, 1999

On Bacon Hill
Shameless Arrogance Again Raises Its Greedy Head

If you want to run for public office, can you take off months from your job so that you can campaign full-time, thanks to your constitutionally-guaranteed salary and automatic pay raises? That advantage the Legislature took for itself was bad enough.

Today, if you want to run for public office, will someone set you up for two years prior to the election with an all-expenses paid office and funds for buying votes? Will they give you money to make "charitable contributions" to local charities to buy you exposure and votes? Will they buy your tickets to local events in your district?

Do you know any non-incumbent candidate -- a challenger or potential challenger to the entrenched career politician -- who gets an annual subsidy to offset the daily costs of being a candidate?

Should taxpayers provide this generous additional Incumbency Protection Plan to career politicians who usually have no opposition anyway, in exchange for so-called "Campaign Finance Reform" that alleges to "level the playing field"?

This is the best lame excuse the Bacon Hill Cabal can conjure up for its current raid on the state treasury ... this time.

But it's only the start if they get away with it. There's no end to the perks and bonuses they can give themselves above and beyond their now constitutionally-mandated and protected salaries and automatic pay raises.

They're also willing to split some of the loot that used to belong to us with the "powerful teachers lobby" in the form of a new early retirement bonus! You don't suppose this buys the entrenched pols even more support from the "powerful" teachers union, do you?

Isn't it nice that the Statehouse is so awash with our tax overpayment that the career politicians can feather their beds, fill their pockets, and further insure that nobody ever has a chance to unseat them?

They can't get the single most important part of their job -- the state budget -- done on time, but by God if it's another pay grab it's done overnight in the blink of the eye.

Isn't "democracy" in the Peoples Republic simply grand? To think that we were once known as the Cradle of Liberty...

Get even -- give yourself a pay raise.

"Every tax is a pay cut; a tax cut is a pay raise!"

Make sure we have enough signatures next week to put our tax cut on next year's ballot.

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Chip Ford

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Page One - Lead Story

Lawmakers push for own pay increase
Mass. House committee inserts amendment into salary measure

By Tina Cassidy
Globe Staff

Without notice, a powerful legislative committee last night hastily revised a bill calling for pay raises for the state's top elected officials and opened the door for a boost in lawmakers' own pay.

House Ways and Means chairman Paul Haley said the last-minute amendment was legitimate because many rank-and-file legislators cannot afford to campaign and live off their $46,410 annual salaries.

Haley said a new campaign reform law, which provides incentives for candidates to limit campaign spending, will force elected officials to pay out of their own pockets for items that advance their political futures: charitable contributions, district offices, political travel, and tickets to community events.

Lawmakers have typically dipped into their campaign accounts for those items in the past.

"Members have many financial demands," Haley said after the committee approved the bill. "That includes having to do many different events in your district where there is some fee required, or ticket price."

The full House could take up the measure as soon as today, when the $20.8 billion spending plan is unveiled for the first time, more than four months past deadline. It is not clear whether the Senate would support the measure.

Although the Legislature last year voted to link pay raises for lawmakers to increases in the Consumer Price Index -- rather than hold uncomfortable public debates over the matter -- this measure could augment those incremental cost-of-living increases by offering "other means of compensation."

"Something has to give here," said Haley, a Weymouth Democrat.

The amendment calls for a special commission to find a way of supplementing lawmakers' compensation. It was added to the bill at the end of a 10-minute executive session of the Ways and Means Committee in a first-floor meeting room. Several reporters were in attendance.

After the panel voted to approve boosting the salaries of district attorneys, the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, secretary of state, and attorney general, Rep. Vincent P. Ciampa, a Somerset Democrat, said: "Why not increase the Great and General Court?"

Haley told Ciampa to offer the amendment, which the committee approved unanimously and then quickly ended the meeting.

Barbara Anderson of the watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government said she was stunned by the move, and compared it to past late-session legislative pay increases.

"It's always done in some sleazy underhanded way," Anderson said. "They believe they can get away with it because they keep getting re-elected."

But David Donnelly, director of the Mass. Voters for Clean Elections, said he was not surprised.

"We took all their campaign money away so they feel they need to find another stream of revenue to support constituent services," Donnelly said.

Last November, voters approved a "Clean Elections" ballot initiative by a 2-1 ratio. The initiative set up a system that provides public matching funds for candidates who voluntarily agree to limit campaign spending. House members who agree to curtail their spending to $30,000 would receive $24,000 in public money.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran has sharply criticized the bill, and some activists have accused him of trying to block its implementation.

Because ballot initiatives cannot directly appropriate state money, it has been left up to the Legislature to decide how much money to make available for the candidates to draw upon.

The House and Senate are expected to announce a compromise on the issue today. The Senate had called for appropriating $13 million, while the House favored spending $10 million.

But the House also wanted to send the question back to the voters, a proposal the Clean Elections supporters vowed to fight.

Haley said the proposed increase in legislative pay simply recognizes that lawmakers will have to spend more of their personal funds to advance their political ambitions and remain in office.

The pay raise bill would also increase Gov. Paul Cellucci's salary from $90,000 to $135,000, a 50 percent jump. Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift, the secretary of state, treasurer, and state auditor would get 60 percent increases, while the attorney general's pay would rise 56 percent.

The legislation, submitted 10 months after the normal January filing deadline, has been on a fast track, despite a stalemate that has tied up action on the state budget since July 1, when the fiscal year began.

Anderson said the end-of-session rush for a raise is similar to a legislative maneuver in 1994, when lawmakers approved a salary increase of $16,000 for themselves in a deal with then-governor William F. Weld. Weld went along with the pay raise. In exchange, the governor got a much sought-after capital gains tax cut.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Teacher pension battle heats up
Critics eye $60m cost as backers cry foul

By Michael Crowley
Globe Correspondent

As state lawmakers prepare for tense budget talks today on a long-awaited $20.8 billion spending plan, a new drama is building around a showdown between the powerful teachers lobby and those who say a new retirement package for teachers is too generous.

The debate over the measure, which affects thousands of teachers and about $60 million in pension dollars per year, offers a window into Beacon Hill power politics as charges of payback, chicanery, and intimidation gather steam.

"The political muscle behind this proposal is very strong," said Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a critic of the plan's cost. "This is a classic clash between politics and good public policy."

On the other side of the debate, the measure's sponsor is charging that the governor is opposing the plan as a way of punishing teachers' unions that backed his opponent in last year's election.

"It's a means of exacting revenge," said state Representative John P. Slattery (D-Peabody).

At issue is a plan that would boost pensions for the state's public school teachers. Specifically, it would increase the pension benefit level of retiring teachers by 2 percent for every year they serve after 24 years. That would mean a retiring 58-year-old teacher with 34 years of experience making $60,000 would receive a pension of about $48,000, instead of $36,720 under the current law.

The maximum pension benefit is currently capped at 80 percent of the average of the teacher's three highest years of salary. The proposal would not raise the cap.

Stephen Gorrie, executive director of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, calls the bill "an important tool for improving education" that will allow the state to recruit higher-quality teachers with the new pension package.

"We want to make Massachusetts as attractive as we can," Gorrie said, noting that money saved from veteran teachers' salaries could be used to hire greater numbers of entry-level teachers, reducing class sizes.

In recent days, legislators' phones have been ringing away as the 87,000-member MTA lobbies intensely for the bill.

Such efforts might seem odd, given that both branches of the Legislature unanimously approved the retirement plan this spring and that an overwhelming majority of lawmakers continue to support it.

Yet the power dynamic in the Legislature is such that the objections of two men -- Governor Paul Cellucci and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran -- could be enough to kill the measure.

Cellucci has already said he will veto the bill. While critics suspect he harbors resentment at a teachers' union that supported Democratic nominee Scott Harshbarger in last year's election, the governor has questioned the measure's cost and says the lure of a bigger pension will encourage up to 28,000 veteran teachers to retire early just as the state is struggling to reduce class sizes.

"At a time when we're raising educational standards and student performance, the last thing we want to be doing is taking experienced teachers out of the classroom," Cellucci spokesman John Birtwell said.

The MTA's Gorrie argues that about half of the state's aging teacher corps is likely to retire over the next eight years anyway.

Once a veto is made, the question would be whether Finneran, who controls his chamber's every move, would allow an override vote in the House.

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham is expected to allow an override vote in his chamber.

Finneran's objections to the proposal are well-known, as are his often rocky relations with the teachers' unions.

The bill's supporters fear that Finneran will not allow the House to consider a Cellucci veto, even if the governor does not wait until the Legislature adjourns for the year next Wednesday to reject the provision.

"It's clear that he has not wanted to take up the teachers' retirement bill," Slattery said.

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