Senators leave money on the table
No lawmaker takes three stipends, some decline any increase
PUBLIC PRESSURE APPEARS to have won out as no Massachusetts state senator opted to receive three stipends for leadership positions as they could have under the rules and three Democratic lawmakers eschewed any increase in their pay.
The increases are part of a broad package of pay raises for lawmakers, constitutional officers, and judges that was passed last month by overriding a veto by Gov. Charlie Baker. Since adjustments to the base salary of lawmakers can only be done through a constitutional process approved by voters two decades ago, the Legislature opted instead to approve higher stipends based on the number of leadership positions held. By including a pay hike for judges in the package, the legislation is not subject to repeal at the ballot.
Four Democratic senators were eligible to receive three additional stipends; Sens. Mark Montigny of New Bedford, Cynthia Creem of Newton, Michael Rodrigues of Westport, and Patricia Jehen of Somerville all opted to just accept two leadership stipends.
According to letters filed with the Senate clerk and payroll data from the Treasurer’s office, five of the six Republicans in the chamber, all of whom voted against the hike, declined the increase in both the extra stipends they are entitled to as well as the hike in their expense stipend, an increase of $7,800 to $12,800 depending on how far they live from the State House.
The biggest hike in the Senate went to Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst, who will be getting an $80,000 stipend for his position, more than double the $35,000 he had been receiving, as well as the $20,000 expense stipend for living beyond 50 miles from the State House. That brings Rosenberg’s total pay to $162,547.97, a nearly 60 percent hike above his prior salary.
Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester got the next biggest boost, getting $60,000 for her post as Majority Whip as well as $15,000 as chairman of the Committee on Redistricting. Sen. Karen Spilka of Ashland is getting $65,000 as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means, a $40,000 increase over the previous stipend, as well as $5,200 as vice chairman of one of two committees that were previously unpaid. It is unclear which one she receives the money for but Senate rules bar collecting from more than one vice chairmanship.
Among Republicans, only Sen. Donald Humason of Westfield, who voted no, opted to accept all that he could. He will receive $35,000 as Assistant Minority Leader as well as the full $20,000 expense stipend, putting his nearly $118,000 salary on par with the top half of Democrats and more than any of his Republican colleagues, including Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester. Tarr will continue to receive an annual salary of $92,247.97 after declining the increase to $60,000 for his leadership post and the extra expense stipend.
All state lawmakers received a 4.2 percent hike in their base salary at the beginning of the year approved by Baker as part of the constitutional process. But part of the argument by legislative leaders in favor of the stipend increases was there had been no adjustment for more than 32 years in that extra pay. Freshman state Sen. Adam Hinds is doing fine after less than two months on the job. The Pittsfield Democrat got a pay boost before he even had a chance to hang pictures on the wall, more than $40,000 above his base salary of $62,547.That means Hinds’ six-figure salary is at least $18,000 more than his colleagues who declined the increases and have much longer tenure.