Some senators in line for even bigger payday
Overlooked clause in bill, rules change could hike salaries dramatically
STATE SENATORS COULD SEE THEIR PAY rise dramatically under a little-noticed provision in the pay raise bill and a proposed rules change that together would allow the lawmakers to collect stipends for holding down as many as three leadership positions.
Under current rules, lawmakers receive their base salary of $62,547 plus a stipend if they hold a leadership position. The current stipends range from $7,500 to $15,000, but no lawmaker is allowed to pocket more than $15,000 no matter how many leadership positions they hold.
The proposed pay raise legislation, which has been vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker and is coming up for override votes in the House and Senate on Thursday, dramatically increases legislative stipends, eliminates the $15,000 cap, and allows lawmakers to be compensated for two leadership positions. New Senate rules, which also come up for a vote Thursday, would allow senators to be compensated for three leadership positions, while proposed House rules would limit members of that body to just one stipend.
“There’s no limit to their greed,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “How low can these people stoop? We’re not going to let anybody forget about this. They may think they’re going to get away with it but we won’t let them. This whole thing stunk to high heaven from the beginning.”
But if he retains the same posts this year, Montigny’s stipend pay would rise dramatically under the proposed pay raise legislation and rules change. He would collect a $35,000 stipend for serving as assistant majority leader, a $30,000 stipend for chairing the Rules Committee, and a $15,000 stipend for his vice chairmanship of health care financing, bringing his total compensation in the form of salary and stipends to $142,547, including the 4.2 percent hike in base salary lawmakers received in December under a constitutional process set by voters.
Montigny headed the temporary committee that drafted the rules changes that will be taken up for a vote in the Senate on Thursday. Montigny did not return a call for comment.
Under the proposed Senate rules, a senator could collect stipends for a post in leadership, a chairmanship, and a vice chairmanship. Of the 30 Democratic senators returning from last term, 28 held at least two of those positions. Of the 28, 14 held posts that would pay them three stipends if they were appointed to the same positions this term.
Four senators – Sens. Barbara L’Italien, Thomas McGee, James Timilty, and Jennifer Flanagan – received two stipends each in 2016. The stipends were $7,500 apiece, bringing them to the $15,000 cap. If they retain the same positions this year and the Senate rules change is approved, their stipend pay would rise to $30,000.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester has introduced an amendment to the rules bill that would allow senators to receive a maximum of two stipends. Tarr, who is in line for a $60,000 stipend as minority leader, did not return a call for comment.
A spokesman for Baker did not comment on the potential for double- and triple-dipping in the Senate, but emphasized that the governor and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will not accept the pay raises they are slated to receive in the legislation coming up for override votes on Thursday.The Legislature’s override votes can only go up or down with no changes, meaning the change in pay for extra posts will survive if the veto is overridden. The House will take up a package of rules on Thursday that will limit its members to one position stipend while the Senate will vote on a proposed change in its rules to allow members to be paid for as many as three positions.
Under the bill, the speaker and Senate president would receive an $80,000 stipend above the legislative base salary of $62,547. The bill also raises constitutional officers’ salaries to $165,000 for lieutenant governor, auditor, and secretary of state, a roughly $30,000 increase for each; $175,000 for attorney general and state treasurer, more than a $45,000 hike for each; and $185,000 plus a $65,000 housing allowance for the governor, who currently earns $151,800. The measure would also give up to a $25,000 pay increase spread over four years to all judges and most court clerks, despite a salary hike for that branch just three years ago.