Panel recommends hefty pay hikes for Massachusetts governor, other top political officers

Government And Institutions Associated Press

An advisory board on Monday recommended increasing the Massachusetts governor's total pay by nearly $100,000 a year while also giving sizable raises to other officials, including a 71 percent hike for legislative leaders.

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The Special Advisory Commission on Public Compensation said the governor's salary should rise from $151,800 to $185,000 with a new, yearly $65,000 housing allowance tacked on. Massachusetts is one of six states without an official governor's residence or housing allowance.

The panel created by the Legislature also recommended increasing the salary for the attorney general and state treasurer to $175,000. The attorney general currently draws a $130,582 salary, while the treasurer earns $127,917.

The panel also said the salary of the House speaker and Senate president should jump from $102,279 to $175,000. The panel didn't recommend increasing the pay of other lawmakers.

The report also recommended setting an annual salary of $165,000 for the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state auditor. The auditor and lieutenant governor each earn about $135,000. The secretary of state earns about $131,000.

The commission says the higher pay would help attract talented individuals to state government. They also noted that 1,254 state workers currently earn more than the governor.

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The recommendations would have to be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor before becoming law.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo released a brief statement thanking the commission for its "hard work and extensive analysis."

"The report will now be reviewed," DeLeo added, but didn't say when or if he would to take action on the proposal.

Senate President Therese Murray, in her final term, said she believes the governor, legislative leadership and other constitutional officers should receive compensation "commensurate with the full time positions they hold."

"These are thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations which we are currently reviewing to determine how they could be practically implemented and what the next steps may be," she said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg called the report "a series of bold recommendations, including the elimination of per-diems and the institution of a first-in-the-nation ban on outside income for legislative leaders and constitutional officers."

The timing of the recommendations is politically awkward as the state faces an estimated $329 million budget gap.

"The people of Massachusetts deserve a state government that is as thrifty as they are and now is not the time to award pay raises when a significant budget deficit is forcing cuts to many programs and services," Gov.-elect Charlie Baker said in a statement.

The Legislature is in informal session until the start of its new session in early January. During the informal session, the objection of a single lawmaker can stall legislation for the rest of the session.

Gov. Deval Patrick, whose term also ends in early January, said he won't approve any salary changes unless lawmakers approve an "acceptable plan" to close the budget gap.

"While I have no personal stake in the changes, and believe people don't run for public office for the salary, I understand the demands of the jobs and agree the compensation should be updated," Patrick said in a statement.

The panel made other recommendations, including what it called a first-in-the-nation ban on earning outside income for the six statewide officeholders and the Senate president and House speaker and eliminating so-called "per diem" payments lawmakers can receive to help cover the cost of traveling to the Statehouse.

Instead, each lawmaker would receive $10,000 in office expenses if they live within 50 miles of the Statehouse and $15,000 if they life farther away.

The panel said the total cost of the plan is $934,343.