Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to Veto Pay Increase for Legislators

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vowed Thursday to veto a bill approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and House that would give nearly $18 million in annual pay raises to top legislators, statewide elected officials and judges.

Baker said in a statement that one of his core responsibilities "is the responsible custody of the people's tax dollars, and we will veto this legislation because given the current fiscal outlook for the state, now is not the time to expend additional funds on elected officials' salaries."

The Senate and House, however, approved the bill by veto-proof margins.

The Senate voted 31-9 in favor of the legislation earlier Thursday, a day after the House approved the measure by a 115-44 vote. A handful of Democrats joined Republicans in both chambers in opposing the bill.

The bill wouldn't change the $62,547 annual base pay for lawmakers, but would increase additional stipends paid to Democratic and Republican leaders and to the chairs of key legislative committees.

The annual salary for House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats, would climb about $45,000 to more than $142,000 a year, while the heads of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees would get a $35,000 raise.

The bill also would boost Baker's annual salary from $151,800 to $185,000, and for the first time provide the governor a $65,000 housing allowance.

Other constitutional officers, including the attorney general and state treasurer, would also get substantial raises, and annual salaries for judges would increase by $25,000.

Rosenberg defended the increase, saying lawmakers are being forced out of office because of the low pay.

"We are losing young people every election cycle." Rosenberg said. "Particularly the younger members who are trying to start families and start their career, they cannot live on this."

The Senate rejected a Republican amendment that would have delayed the start of the pay raises for two years. Most of the raises would become effective immediately.

Critics faulted the bill's timing, which comes as Beacon Hill is working to keep the state budget balanced.

The group Citizens for Limited Taxation called on Baker to veto the bill, criticizing lawmakers for rushing through the legislation. DeLeo and Rosenberg first announced their intention to revisit the issue just last week.

"These cynical actions demonstrate that when the leadership and enough beholding members in the Legislature want something badly enough they just take it," said Chip Ford, the group's executive director.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a possible Democratic challenger to Baker in 2018, also slammed what he called a "rushed-through pay raise plan."

The measure also would end travel allowances for legislators in favor of a single annual lump sum payment to cover all expenses: $15,000 for those who live within 50 miles of the Statehouse and $20,000 for all others.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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