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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.