Senators to see average pay rise 39%
Stipends will boost some lawmakers’ pay even more dramatically
THE AVERAGE PAY OF A STATE SENATOR will likely rise about 39 percent this year to $110,942 under a new compensation scheme that rewards lawmakers with stipends for the leadership positions they hold.
At least 25 of the 34 Democratic lawmakers in the Senate will earn more than $102,000 a year, including an expense stipend, while the other nine are slated to earn at least $97,000 if they accept the increase.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who holds the top leadership position in the chamber, will see his compensation rise from $102,333 to $162,547, a 59 percent increase. Majority Leader Harriette Chandler’s pay will go from $89,733 to $157,547, an increase of nearly 76 percent.
The increases are part of a broad package of pay raises for lawmakers, constitutional officers, and judges that was passed earlier this 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.
While the pay package gained final approval on Feb. 2 when the House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto, the actual compensation of individual lawmakers remained a bit of a mystery until Wednesday, when Rosenberg at a private caucus meeting handed out leadership positions to the 33 other Democratic members of the chamber. Of the 33 lawmakers, 29 received leadership positions entitling them to two stipends and four received positions entitling them to three.
The Senate’s decision to award extra pay for up to three stipends has stirred controversy because the 160-member House passed rules that let its members accept stipends for only one leadership position. Rosenberg stood by the decision to award as many as three stipend payments in the Senate at the time of the veto override, but apparently sentiment changed since then. An official familiar with the discussions inside the Senate’s Democratic caucus on Wednesday said there was debate about whether a senator should accept three stipends, and the consensus was that most of the senators eligible for three should only take two.
The four senators eligible for three stipends are Sens. Mark Montigny of New Bedford, Cynthia Creem of Newton, Michael Rodrigues of Westport, and Patricia Jehlen of Somerville. Montigny, Creem, and Rodrigues are part of the Senate’s top leadership. Montigny and Creem would be eligible to receive total stipend pay of $70,200 if they pocket three stipends, while Rodrigues would receive $55,200. Creem’s pay for her three lesser leadership positions would total $35,200. All of the stipends come on top of the base legislative salary of $62,547 as well as the expense payments.
Montigny’s situation illustrates the way the Legislature’s pay scheme has dramatically changed this year. Last year, Montigny received his then-base salary of $60,233 plus a $15,000 stipend for serving as the Senate’s assistant majority leader. He received no compensation for heading up the Rules Committee and serving as vice chair of the Health Financing Committee. His total compensation was $82,233.
This year, under the new compensation regime, he is slated to receive base pay of $62,547, plus a $35,000 stipend for serving as assistant majority leader, a $30,000 stipend for chairing the Rules Committee, a $5,200 stipend for his vice chairmanship of the Export Development Committee, and a $20,000 expense payment. His total compensation will be $152,747, an increase of nearly 86 percent over last year. If Montigny drops one of his three stipends and accepts only two, presumably the one dropped will be the $5,200 one, reducing his total compensation to $147,547, which would be an increase of 79 percent over last year.
While CommonWealth calculated individual lawmaker salaries by following the rules laid out in the recently passed law and accompanying Senate rules changes, the figures could change if legislators decide not to accept some or all of the pay hike. For example, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the Gloucester Republican will not accept the increased stipend to which he is entitled. The statute allows Tarr to be paid a $60,000 stipend as minority leader on top of his base salary, but Tarr’s spokesman said he would not accept the stipend increase of $37,500.Tarr has not yet set his leadership team, though all five of his fellow Republicans in the Senate are eligible for increased stipends as whips, assistant leaders, and ranking committee members.