Lawmakers creating more paid leadership positions

3 new committees will cost taxpayers $137,672 in stipends


THE CREATION of three new legislative committees to focus on the state’s COVID-19 response, racial equality and cybersecurity will come at a cost of $137,672 to taxpayers, according to a  calculation based on the 2017 pay law.

House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka announced Wednesday night that they intended to create three new standing joint House-Senate committees to start the new session: the Joint Committee on Covid-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management; the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion; and the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity. There are currently 29 other joint committees.

The committees were included in a joint rules proposal that surfaced in the Senate on Thursday and will be debated next Thursday. “We look forward to utilizing these new committees to focus attention and expertise to these timely and important issues,” Mariano and Spilka said in a joint statement.

With the creation of those committees comes new chairmanships and vice chairmanships for Mariano and Spilka to award, each with their own stipends. Based on the 2017 law that increased pay for legislators and other public officials, committee chairs can earn between $17,042 and $73,851 on top of their base salaries, depending on which committees they lead.

Without a change in state law to specifically assign a higher stipend to the new committees, it appears the leaders of the new committees would be in line for stipends on the lowest rung of the pay scale, with the six new chairs from each branch receiving $17,042 each in additional pay and the vice chairs an extra $5,903 each.

This pay structure could not be immediately confirmed with Senate leaders. Senate rules limit members to collecting a maximum of two stipends for their assigned responsibilities, while House members can collect just one stipend, according to that branch’s rules.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
The stipends started at $15,000 for a chair and $5,200 for a vice chair in 2017, but have been adjusted biennially in accordance with the law based on statewide salary and wage changes as recorded by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the United States Department of Commerce.

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg certified an 8.32 percent increase in stipend pay in 2019 and another 4.89 percent increase this year. Legislators also saw their base pay increase in January by 6.46 percent to $70,536 for the next two years, based on the state’s Constitution.