Limited Taxation
Post Office Box 408     Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (508) 384-0100
E-Mail:       Web-page:

CLT Update
Thursday, November 11, 1999


Legislator's Greed-Play Put On Hold

Have you ever before seen such a bunch of self-centered greedheads, constantly seeking new and better ways to benefit themselves at any cost?

They acted outrageously and blamed it on the need to increase their expense accounts, the lame excuse for their proposed taxpayer-funded slush fund of walking-around pocket money for legislators:

"... Haley reportedly argued that lawmakers should find a way to boost legislative compensation because the state's new Clean Elections Law, which curtails fund-raising, makes it difficult to pay for such things as maintaining district offices on average salaries of about $47,000...."

But at that very same moment they were gutting the Clean Elections Law passed by the voters. Their excuse for rewriting the citizens initiative ballot question and totally reversing its intent was:

"... Birmingham defended the move, arguing that incumbent legislators need to raise and spend money regularly to run district offices and carry out many of their duties in their districts throughout their term.

"What we were trying to do for elected officials, particularly legislators, is deal with expenses that are expected of them and sometimes needed, but that would have all been prohibited by the Clean Elections Bill," Birmingham said.

So on one hand, legislators would have us believe we taxpayers should provide them with even more money than they've already taken for themselves and locked into the constitution, so tha  they can pay the expenses of being an incumbent legislator with all its advantages -- but they also need to continue business-as-usual fund-raising to pay those very same expenses. Do I have this right?

Wherever you stand on the "Clean Elections" citizen initiative law passed by the voters (personally, I'm against Public Assistance for Politicians), citizens took the difficult route and put it on the ballot by the sweat of their brows -- not by the effortless wave of a magic legislative wand, the way the pols' constitutionally-guaranteed salaries and automatic pay raises made it onto the ballot.

Boy, do they ever think we are stupid.

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Thursday, November 11, 1999

Raise our pay by cutting tax
By Barbara Anderson

Well, voters, we can fight the latest legislative pay hike, or we can concentrate on rolling back the "temporary" state income tax hike. I choose option two. Since every tax cut is a pay raise, let's get one for ourselves!

We taxpayer activists have often opposed legislative pay raises as a secondary issue. Our opposition was based on the commonwealth's high tax burden and the refusal of the Legislature to do anything about it until forced by an initiative petition. Why, we figured, should they get a raise when all they did was torment their employers?

We were also dragged into the issue by public outrage generated by the way legislators passed these pay hikes. They would do it right after they were safely re-elected, or in the middle of the night, without a roll call. It was always a huge percentage increase, effective immediately or retroactive to the beginning of the year. Either they would not have a public hearing, or they would have several around the state at which they'd be told by almost everyone who testified that it was too much; then they did what they wanted anyhow.

To add insult to injury, the Legislature would often attach its raise to either a judicial pay bill or to the state budget. The state Constitution does not allow those pieces of legislation to be the  subject of a repeal referendum.

The voters signed a petition in 1995 that would have cut legislative pay to encourage a part-time citizen legislature like New Hampshire's, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled it off the ballot. It would be nice to have at least the power that New York state taxpayers have to withhold legislators paychecks if the state budget is late.

Instead, Massachusetts has a new constitutional amendment -- placed on the 1998 ballot by the Legislature -- setting the present legislative pay in constitutional cement and giving legislators an automatic pay raise every two years if median household income increases. For some unfathomable reason, the voters passed this amendment. Now legislative leaders are using it as an excuse to find "other means of compensation."

Complaining that their pay is too low, they attached a "study" to a non-controversial constitutional officer pay raise that would find a way to give them extra money to advance their chances of re-election. Until the voter-passed "clean elections law," legislators had a big advantage over challengers because they could spend campaign money for local "charitable" contributions, funeral flowers, and political travel. They will expect the "study" to recommend they get additional taxpayers dollars for these career-enhancing expenses.

When I was first asked last month what I thought of a proposal to raise the pay of the constitutional officers, I declined to object. Even in the past, when the constitutional officers' pay was affected by legislative raises, the public outrage was aimed at the legislative, not the executive branch.

Of course, the proper way to raise pay for an elected position is to have it take effect after the next election. But I have no quarrel with the state constitutional officers, who, unlike the Legislature, actually seem to show up for work on a regular basis.

Well, trust the Legislature to make even the least controversial proposal outrageous. Even though the state budget was four months late, the pay bill is being fast-tracked. The amount will be more than originally proposed. And now it includes some goodies for legislators as well.

Whatever. Our politicians shouldn't bother attaching it to judicial pay or the state budget. No one is going to stop working on an income tax rollback petition -- a pay hike for us! -- to try to repeal this politician pay package. We have our priorities and they have theirs.

The Boston Herald
Thursday, November 11, 1999

A new feeding frenzy?
A Boston Herald editorial

You'd think that the voters of Massachusetts dragged people off the streets and simply forced them to serve as members of the Legislature, according to the pay raise talk on Beacon Hill.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth) insisted that the $46,410 salary of rank and file members (committee chairmen, vice chairmen and party leaders get more) just didn't make it. So in the pay raise bill for the state's constitutional officers, he inserted a provision for a commission to study the pay of legislators.

Now ordinarily there is little to object to in a study commission. But in this particular instance the objections are many:

First, Haley's timing -- with one week to go in the session -- is simply appalling. That this was a session which met sporadically and accomplished little hardly strengthens his case.

Just last year legislators insisted that tying future pay raises to increases in the cost of living would solve their problems and take the issue out of politics. They can't have it both ways.

Haley's rationale -- that the public financing of future political campaigns will cut down on the amount of campaign contributions legislators can spend on expenses - is even more shocking. Campaign accounts were never intended as slush funds, although Haley's admission indicates that's exactly what they have become. Further, no one is holding a gun to legislators' heads t  force them to take public campaign money (it is optional, but when taken does limit a candidate' spending options too).

Rarely has one legislator shown such bad judgment. His own colleagues ought to be the first to recognize that.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, November 11, 1999

Finneran scuttles pay-hike plan
By Tina Cassidy
Globe Staff

Embarrassed after one of his top lieutenants pushed through a last-minute proposal to raise the pay of legislators, House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran publicly blasted the idea yesterday and issued a public rebuke of Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley.

Finneran said Haley's committee showed poor judgment and timing, slipping in the language on the same day the Legislature released its long-delayed $20.9 billion budget.

"I question the judgment which has been shown in this matter," Finneran wrote. "I also question the timing of the proposal. Even though it is only an advisory commission which has been proposed, I nonetheless question the substance and symbolism of the issue."

A haggard Haley, who on Tuesday vocally supported the pay raise measure, yesterday said he was tired from working around the clock to end the four-month delay on the budget and let the amendment slip through so he could move on to other matters. But after hearing of the speaker's objections, he agreed to withdraw it.

Finneran first learned of the plan when he read the Globe yesterday, sources said. And although the speaker did not single out Haley, whose committee approved the amendment to a bill that gives raises to other state officials, it was clear the statement was meant for him, exposing a widening rift between the two men.

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham said members of his chamber were equally red-faced to read about the proposal.

"It came as a bolt out of the blue and it's dead on arrival," said Birmingham, a Chelsea Democrat. "It was unseemly. No desire to go near it."

The amendment, which would have set up a study to explore raising lawmakers' compensation, was approved at the end of a 10-minute Ways and Means Committee executive session, the forum for releasing bills to be voted on by the Legislature.

After approving bills that would significantly increase the salaries of statewide elected officials and district attorneys, Representative Vincent P. Ciampa, a Somerset Democrat, said: "Why not increase the Great and General Court?"

The committee approved the change unanimously and then quickly ended the meeting.

Before he left the meeting, Haley reportedly argued that lawmakers should find a way to boost legislative compensation because the state's new Clean Elections Law, which curtails fund-raising, makes it difficult to pay for such things as maintaining district offices on average salaries of about $47,000.

Yet even while Haley -- who is appointed by the speaker -- downplayed the importance of the compensation "study" yesterday, he reiterated the need for some sort of pay increase for strapped lawmakers.

Finneran, who values political acumen in his committee chairs as much as their intellect, was agitated by Haley's handling of the issue, at least from a public relations standpoint, according to political allies.

"I understand he went to Harvard," one Finneran loyalist sniped about Haley. "I think we oftentimes forgive a multitude of sins for people who have a Harvard degree."

Under the legislation approved by the Ways and Means Committee, Governor Paul Cellucci's salary would increase from $90,000 to $135,000, a 50 percent jump. The attorney general's salary would rise from $80,000 to $127,500. And the lieutenant governor, secretary of state  treasurer, and auditor, each earning $75,000, would see their salaries swell to $122,500. District attorneys, who now earn in the $90,000 range, would make $117,000.

Finneran, in his statement, said those salary increases were legitimate.

"While the pay raise proposals for the district attorneys and the constitutional officers in the Commonwealth have had full public hearings and seem to enjoy broad public support, no such claim can be made for the amendment which was added to the pay proposal," Finneran wrote. "A legitimate public process is essential to all legislation and that is particularly true when changes to legislative compensation are being contemplated."

To avoid such embarrassing public debates over how much a lawmaker should be paid, the Legislature voted last year to tie lawmakers' pay raises to the annual consumer price index, which would adjust salaries with the cost of living.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, November 11, 1999

Lawmakers rewrite Mass. campaign rules
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff

Massachusetts legislative leaders, in a move that would dramatically weaken the state's new campaign finance reform law, pushed through a measure yesterday that would allow Beacon Hill incumbents to raise and spend unlimited campaign cash for years and still qualify for public matching funds in the final days of their races.

Campaign reform groups say the measure would create a huge loophole in the new law, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters last November, and would undermine the very idea of publicly financed elections.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, who have both stockpiled huge campaign war chests as they eye gubernatorial bids, included the rewriting of the Clean Elections Law as part of the negotiated state budget. The House and Senate approved the $20.87 billion spending plan last night and sent it to Governor Paul Cellucci.

"We've made the Clean Elections Law a viable one while still preserving the principle of public financing elections," Birmingham said.

Under the law approved by voters and scheduled to take effect in 2002, candidates for statewide office must decide at the beginning of their four-year terms whether to participate in the voluntary public-funded campaign system.

If they agree, they must limit fund-raising for the four-year cycle and cannot spend any campaign money until the election year. In exchange they receive public funds for their campaigns. For example, a gubernatorial candidate who agrees to limit campaign spending to $3 million would receive $2.55 million in public funds.

Legislative candidates decide at the start of each two-year election cycle whether to participate in the system. House candidates who limit their spending to $30,000 are eligible for $24,000 in public money.

But the change backed by the Democratic leadership would allow officeholders and candidates to raise and spend large sums -- even millions of dollars -- until six months before the general election, then join the public-funding system.

David Donnelly, director of Mass Voters for Clean Elections, accused Birmingham and Finneran of trying to gut the law.

"It is a huge loophole that allows candidates for all offices to raise unlimited amounts of special interest money and then preserve the option to say no to special interest money during the last few months of an election," Donnelly said.

But Birmingham defended the move, arguing that incumbent legislators need to raise and spend money regularly to run district offices and carry out many of their duties in their districts throughout their term.

"What we were trying to do for elected officials, particularly legislators, is deal with expenses that are expected of them and sometimes needed, but that would have all been prohibited by the Clean Elections Bill," Birmingham said.

Advocates for campaign finance reform reject the argument and say the changes will enhance the advantage of incumbents by allowing them to tap into special interest money and spend it to promote their reelection efforts during all but the last six months of their terms.

"This loophole would seriously unlevel the playing field since it is the incumbents who raise the money from the special interests," said George Pillsbury, director of the Massachusetts Money and Politics Project.

Birmingham had $422,961 in campaign funds in January, the last time he was required to file reports to the state. Finneran had $123,679. But since then both of them, particularly Birmingham, who has made it clear he wants to run for governor, have been raising large amounts.

For contributions, both rely partly on lobbyists and special interests with matters before the Legislature. Other House and Senate leaders also tap into those funds.

The Clean Elections Law was passed after lawmakers refused to approve a public funding system. The complicated system has created anxiety among the state's political establishment because of its sharp curbs on fund-raising and expenditures for those who participate.

Critics of the law say it is too restrictive in its expenditure ceilings and infringes on certain constitutional rights. However, a federal judge in Maine, which has passed a similar law, last week rejected those arguments.

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:

Return to CLT Updates page