The Boston City Council approved giving itself a nearly 23 percent pay raise on Wednesday, despite threats of a possible veto by Mayor Martin Walsh.
The council voted 9-4 to raise its annual pay from $87,500 to $107,500, a $20,000 increase, effective January 2016. The vote followed over an hour of debate in which the 13-member panel considered three amendments to the original plan by City Council President Bill Linehan, who sought a $25,000 raise, effective immediately.
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Mayor Walsh threatened earlier this week to veto Linehan's proposal, but on Wednesday said this staff would review the final pay plan before making a decision. The mayor has 15 days to take action on the pay raise. The council could override his veto with a 2/3 majority.
Linehan proposed the raise last month, arguing that it was long overdue.
But bowing to concerns from the city law department, he proposed to change the effective date of the raise to January 2016, when a new council takes office. The law department warned that any immediate pay raise would violate state ethics law since government officials can't vote on matters in which they or their families have a direct financial interest.
Councilor Stephen Murphy then proposed lowering the pay raise by $5,000, blaming local media for stirring up controversy around the plan.
A handful of council members complained that the pay raise was still too high; others agreed with Linehan that it was long overdue.
Boston City Council salaries already exceed those in other New England cities. Only Cambridge councilors, who earn $73,362, come close, according to a 2013 Boston city survey.
The new salary would boost Boston council pay beyond those earned in a number of U.S. cities with populations between 625,000 and 650,000 residents, including Nashville, Tennessee, $15,000; Baltimore, $61,383 and Denver, $78,173.
Even some cities with far larger populations than Boston had lower council salaries in 2013 than the pay level approved by the council Wednesday. Among them: Houston, $55,770; San Diego, $75,386; San Jose, California, $81,000; and San Francisco, $105,723.