Income inequality, Beacon Hill style
It would be hard to swing a dead cat in the State House without hitting a member of the nearly all-Democratic Legislature who has railed in one form or another against rising income inequality, which has become the cause of our time, particularly among liberal-leaning types.
So it seemed a bit perplexing to read this morning that the state’s district attorneys are slated to receive a healthy pay increase, while a pittance is being tossed at their poorly-paid underlings who man the frontlines in prosecuting cases throughout the state’s courts. The Boston Globe reports that the state’s 11 DAs will see a pay bump of almost $23,000 a year, or 15 percent, under the proposed state budget. The DAs’ salary would jump from $148,843 to $171,561.
The state’s 700 assistant district attorneys are slated to share in a $500,000 line item added to the budget. If that money is divided equally among them, the ADAs would each see an annual raise of about $715. Starting pay for assistant district attorneys is just $37,500, with average pay for those with a few years on job in the low- to mid-$40,000 range, the Globe reports.
The paper highlights several other pay-increase disparities in the budget, including a similar $23,000 raise for the head of the state office that coordinates defense counsel services for those who can’t afford a private lawyer. The raise for Anthony Benedetti, which boosts his pay from $148,843 to $171,561, is tied to the salary increase for DAs, but there is no increase in the budget for the low-paid lawyers who work under him. Salaries for the 500 state public defenders average in the mid-$50,000 range.
Michael O’Keefe , the DA for the Cape & Islands, didn’t exactly help his cause when he told the Globe that the pay gap between DAs and the prosecutors who work under them is just how things usually work. “There is usually disparity between the leadership and those who start at the bottom,” O’Keefe told the paper. No one disputes the idea that a DA should earn more than the assistant prosecutors who work under him. What’s at issue is a budget proposal that widens that gap.
The pay increases for those at the top are, in absolute dollar terms, more affordable to the state. The nearly $23,000 boost in the salary of the 11 DAs amounts to a just under $250,000 in total. In contrast, giving each of the state’s 700 ADAs a $5,000 raise would cost $3.5 million.
Giving decent raises to a small number of people at the top may be less costly than even modest across-the-board increases for the much larger of number of people who work under them, but it’s often said that public budgets are numerical expressions of our collective values. As such, lawmakers seem to be signing off on the sort of statement that many of them regularly decry when it is practiced by the private sector.
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