Robert, Charlie and the rest, what are your true colors?

Footnote: the legislation did not (and cannot) adjust the base pay for legislators. The raises apply only to members of the legislative leadership. Rank and file legislators do not gain from this law. - promoted by david

For the Democrats: 

Robert DeLeo pushed for and received a $45,000 a year raise.  The Democrat-controlled Legislature approved a  bill authorizing several increases, which are worth about $18 million per year.  I support this.  DO you HEAR that, members of the legislature?  I support this.  I am not going to tell members of the legislature that they lack the education and jobs skills to deserve higher wages – and they simply need to find a better job.  I am going to respect them as citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who deserve a fair wage.  

If we do not raise the salaries of our legislators, only wealthy individuals like Baker and Polito will be able to afford to be a legislator. As CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, Baker raked in over $1.5 Million a year. Karyn Polito pocketed more than $100,000 in pay from her real estate company last year on top of her state salary, and just moved into a million-dollar home that includes her own private island.

If this is to be a government “of the people”, we must raise salaries to at least be competitive wit the private sector. If, however, we with to make the salaries so low so that only people like Charlie Baker, Karen Polito, and Donald Trump can afford to run for office and accept the jobs at no pay, or no raises, we will get what we deserve.

Okay?  I’ve made my stand.  I’ve taken sides.  I FULLY support the raise in wages for the legislators in the Commonwealth.

Now for the Republicans:

On the issue of pay raises for legislators, Governor Baker was in opposition and remarked,  “There’s still a lot of people in Massachusetts who are struggling and hurting and I think its important that we, sort of, stand by them.”  Excuse me, but what did you mean by “sort of” stand by them?  Do you mean stand by them in photo shoots for your re-election campaign as you blame the Democrats for their plight?  Why “sort of” sand by them?  Why not stand FOR them?

So here is what I propose.  A veritable Win/Win/Win if there ever was one! 

Mr. DeLeo, members of the state legislature, Governor Baker, if you agree that a lot of people in Massachusetts are struggling and hurting and it is important that we take a stand for them (as I have for you, Mr. DeLeo), (and as you seem to indicate, Governor Baker)……how about you folks get together and hammer out two things?  Just two

  1. A $15 Minimum Wage for all working class citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts effective the moment Mr. DeLeo and the legislators get their raises.
  2. A tax rate increase of 4 percentage points on income over $1 million.

 

The legislature gets a well deserved raise. The Commonwealth gets a deserved raise in its tax receivables.  The legislature, along with our governor get to show real honest compassion and offer a real honest solution, improving the lives of over a half a million people.

 

Or, the legislature could take the money and ignore the plight of working class and the governor could continue to sort of stand by them.

Recommended by fredrichlariccia.



Discuss

40 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. SOUNDS REASONABLE TO ME....

    help for working families, progressive tax reform and fair compensation for public service.

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  2. Attn, David.

    Footnote: the legislation did not (and cannot) adjust the base pay for legislators. The raises apply only to members of the legislative leadership. Rank and file legislators do not gain from this law. - promoted by david

    From the Masslive article detailing Baker’s veto:

    The bill, which the House and Senate passed this week, would raise the stipends paid to anyone with a leadership position or committee chairmanship in the House and Senate, and would raise expense payments for all members. It would significantly boost the pay of the governor and all the constitutional officers, such as the attorney general and treasurer. It would also raise the salaries of judges and judicial staff.

    • The benefit of the law to rank and file legislators,

      as the Masslive article says, is an increase in the reimbursement they get for their travel expenses. Their base pay, set by amendment 118 to the state constitution, remains unchanged.

      The prior method of calculating travel reimbursements is described in this Masslive article. Now, legislators will receive an additional $15,000 or $20,000, depending on the distance of their commute.

      I’m of two minds about the pay boost. I agree with sabutai’s comment in an earlier post that an excellent way to nurture corruption is to pay so little that legislators have to work two jobs. On the other hand, the pay raises to judges in the new law seem to have been included specifically to insulate the law from the repeal process — a tacky but not unfamiliar gambit (the casino law was insulated from repeal by being drafted as an appropriation measure).

      On the general subject of legislative pay raises, I believe a former Senate President was quoted as saying — “If you’re going to be called a horse thief, you might as well steal some horses.”

      • all true.

        as the Masslive article says, is an increase in the reimbursement they get for their travel expenses. Their base pay, set by amendment 118 to the state constitution, remains unchanged.

        I was just pointing out to David, who said “Rank and file legislators do not gain from this law,” that they do, in fact, gain from this law. Nor do I think the numbers would be there for an override if it only contained provisions for leadership increase in.. eh.. gain.

        I think just about everything about this is corrupt, in the truest sense of the word: a half-assed process to protect the half-assed situation that only invites corruption because we want to avoid the appearance of corruption.

        My suggestion: every candidate for office releases their income tax. If and when they get elected, whatever salary they make, (in a window of between say 50K and 150K) plus about 10%, is their salary as a legislator. Anybody who, in the private sector, makes more than 150K, they get the high end of the salary. They each get a bump in pay of between 2% and 5% each time they get re-elected.

        Nobody gets an expense account. They pay up front and request re-imbursement from a subcommittee of the ethics committee.

        • That sounds too much like the real world petr

          But it’s a great idea all the same

        • I'm sure you wouldn't mean to suggest this, but

          your proposal would keep wealthy new legislators wealthy, and ensure any legislator who got into office living week to week would remain in that struggle…. for as long as they remained in public service.

          How would that in any way attract people who aren’t already wealthy toward running for office? And how would it be fair to all those hardworking legislators who work tirelessly, when there are other legislators who, well, don’t?

          And how would this even be calculated given that many legislators have been in office for decades, or that some were even elected just out of college?

          I like that you’re thinking outside of the box, but this just seems like a bad idea to me, maybe even a moral hazard.

          But I do think it’s worth thinking over this issue. So, here’s an alternative suggestion: Just give legislators the option of a stipend if they agree to not do any other paid work, one big enough to matter. It wouldn’t even have to be as big as what they’d make if they took a side job — I’m sure many legislators would be glad to nix the side gig even if the stipend meant earning a little bit less (but enough ‘more’ that they could afford to save for a home, retirement or their kid’s college).

          Plus, it would reward legislators who really decide to work as a legislator for an amount of hours where other work isn’t possible. And it have bonus of putting legislators on record as to whether or not they do other paid work (which I think constituents have a right to know in an easy-to-find way).

          • That's not the problem I'm trying to solve...

            I’m sure you wouldn’t mean to suggest this, but(1+ / 0-) View voters

            your proposal would keep wealthy new legislators wealthy, and ensure any legislator who got into office living week to week would remain in that struggle…. for as long as they remained in public service.

            … and I’m not at all convinced that it is a problem to begin with. Under my plan people who scratch for a living will continue to scratch for a living. Under your refusal of my solution people who scratch for a living will… continue to scratch for a living. I don’t see that I’ve created a problem. I only see that I’ve failed to punish the wealthy for… being wealthy. Although, it occurs to me that perhaps I wasn’t clear, the window wouldn’t extend below 50K per year. That means somebody who makes 25K and gets elected, doesn’t start at the 25K+10%. They start at 50K. And anybody who doesn’t want to release their taxes starts at the 50K also. The window extends from 50K to 150K. No legislator makes less than 50K and no legislator makes more than 150K.

            The problem I’m trying to solve, which my suggestion does quite handily, is the corrupt situation whereby the political self-interest of the Governor is pitted against the financial self interest of the legislators (and the judiciary, etc…) in accordance with some ridiculously unreal notion of fiscal probity held by the largely uninformed and even more largely resentful electorate. The solution is to pay people what they make in the private sector, which presumably is an indication of their skills and abilities.

            How would that in any way attract people who aren’t already wealthy toward running for office? And how would it be fair to all those hardworking legislators who work tirelessly, when there are other legislators who, well, don’t?

            There is no difference in those exact respects between the present system and the system I propose. Nor is it any different, in any meaningful respect from many, if not all, present jobs in the private sector. The system I propose does not even purport to address those problems. It addresses a completely other, and — I believe — far more pernicious problem.

            Just give legislators the option of a stipend if they agree to not do any other paid work, one big enough to matter. It wouldn’t even have to be as big as what they’d make if they took a side job — I’m sure many legislators would be glad to nix the side gig even if the stipend meant earning a little bit less (but enough ‘more’ that they could afford to save for a home, retirement or their kid’s college).

            I think that’s a good suggestion that would fit in nicely with my proposal. Let us say you have an option: the most you can make as legislature is present salary plus 10K or no expense re-imbursements. So a candidate who gets elected to the office making 75K, who wants to keep his 75K job, gets only the extra 10% bump and expenses. Or if he/she wants to keep his/her original 75k job and get a 75K +10% salary, he/she has to pay their own expenses.

            • How about equal pay for equal work?

              By definition legislators in the same chamber are equally qualified since the sole qualifications are to (a) be eligible to serve (e.g. of age and citizenship status, etc.) and (b) to get the most votes in the election. Let’s ignore leadership bonus and just focus on base pay here.

              Your proposal pays two identically qualified people different salaries for doing the exact same job. For me, that’s a non-starter.

              • You think it's somehow different...

                Your proposal pays two identically qualified people different salaries for doing the exact same job. For me, that’s a non-starter.

                … in the ‘real’ world’? Every job interview I’ve ever been on, I’ve been asked “what are your salary requirements?’ And I tell them what they are. They don’t tell me that, since all the other people doing the exact same work make X, they can only offer me X…

                What’s more important to you: some notion of parity that may, or may not, obtain… anywhere? Or that the salary and perks (porks?) continue to be set according to this corrupt game of hide the pay raise and other varieties of legislative slight-of-hand?? I’m eager to hear your suggestions…?

                • That's more ad hoc.

                  In that scenario there is a single job posting for a single position that they are willing to tailor to the candidate in terms of compensation – that’s fine. This is 160 reps and 40 senators elected by different constituencies who are not in a position to set the compensation for their particular legislator. Incidentally, my jobs I believe have all been at a set rate.

                  • and, so what?

                    That’s more ad hoc.

                    Which do you prefer? I think your showing a weak argument, strongly held… But suppose I stipulate? “ad hoc” (whatever it is you think that means) is somehow, for reasons you’ve not explicated, unacceptable…

                    I doubt very much we could come up with a system that’s equitable and fair when viewed from any and all angles… So the question becomes: are you so opposed to anything ‘ad hoc’ to the preservation of the present system? You think the present situation is preferable? Do you think it somehow preferable that representatives spend time and political capital engaging the Governors’ time and political capital over their own pay? Or, worse, doing so not with base pay but various loopholes and under-rug-swept definitions of ‘stipends’ and ‘expenses’??? This deliberate corruption is, somehow, preferable to ‘ad hoc’??

                    • I believe the current method...

                      …is in fact the preferable method, or certainly the least bad. I very strongly believe it should be the same for everyone and not tied to previous income. That’s unfair on so many levels. The only tweak I’ve proposed is a 27th amendment type provision which says changes don’t take effect until after the next election so technically they are voting on their successor’s pay and not their own, and I think our current constitutional provision tying salaries to state median income has its merits too. I was saying your example was ad hoc (for this purpose only) because it usually applies to a single position and not 200. Leadership stipends and office/travel expenses are all completely appropriate and logical IMO.

                    • "least bad"

                      I believe the current method…(0+ / 0-) View voters

                      …is in fact the preferable method, or certainly the least bad.

                      .. You think a system that ties legislators hands on pay, more or less arbitrarily, and forces them to vigorously exercise loopholes in political contest with the Executive is the ‘least bad’? Just because it preserves a set salary?

                      I certainly think that makes the least sense.

                • Cut the "real world" crap.

                  Legislators are in the real world, they’re real jobs, and they pay real salaries.

                  And you know what? Every teacher in my kids’ school works in the real world too. Their “salary requirements” don’t mean a damn thing. Education achievement and years experience determine the wage. They have a proxy for measurement of qualification, and pay accordingly.

                  petr, your idea is an absurdly bad one. Just own it.

                  • uh...

                    … You might want to rethink this statement…

                    Education achievement and years experience determine the wage.

                    …because, having salaries set under those conditions is exactly my idea. Somebody has to set them.

                    petr, your idea is an absurdly bad one.

                    Right now — Under this present system — thats not even close to how legislators salaries are set. Right now, here and now, in the real, it’s what the constitution decrees, for reasons having nothing to do with experience, and what Robert DeLeo can get away with and THAT has fuck all to do with “education, achievement and years experience’.

                    And you think my idea is absurdly bad? Since you’ve not proffered an alternative, and Christopher has doubled down on the present system, I have to assume you prefer the present absurdity to “education, achievement and years experience’.

                • If you were a teacher, police officer,

                  or did a government job, you’d get what everyone else gets. My sister’s a nurse in the biggest hospital in Western Mass. Guess what? She gets paid the same as everyone else doing her job. There are variables, but a lot of jobs pay what they pay. There’s no negotiations.

        • No way!

          There should be a set salary plus a standard formula for expenses. I don’t get why we wring our hands over this. They should be paid like the professionals they are, though maybe the state should have a 27th amendment equivalent where any adjustment goes into effect after the next election. Corruption means bribes and kickbacks and I don’t see that here. I’ve also never understood the hostility to commuting expenses in a situation where you need to live in a district often away from Boston.

          • I don't think many would agree

            that corruption is limited to bribes and kickbacks. There can be a wide range of corruption. Good people could do corrupt things without realizing it or intending it.

            And it’s not just corruption that should be worried about. Also conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest.

            • I should have included conflicts of interest in the definition...

              …but at least in my mind true corruption, kind of like true racism, implies intention.

              • False distinction

                In my view, your attempt to separate “true” corruption from what has surrounded us here for decades strikes me the same as those who attempt to differentiate “forcible rape” from just plain “rape”. The distinction serves primarily to benefit rapists — or, in politics, corrupt politicians.

                Whatever we call it, a government that demonstrates a pervasive pattern of rewarding moneyed interests in the face of known and demonstrated harm to the public is corrupt. My argument with your facile definition of “true” racism is that it blinds government to behavior that results in flagrantly racist outcomes, because no legislator or corporate official shows “intent” to discriminate. I have a similar argument with your standard for “true” corruption.

                We know that dozens of utterly incompetent people were given jobs in the probation department, and did demonstrated harm to the public as a result. We know that the perpetrators benefited financially and politically from the demonstrated quid pro quo. The fact that courts have reversed the convictions does not mean that the officials were not corrupt.

                The probation department scandal exemplifies flagrant corruption that fails to meet your proposed standard. I get that to some the behavior is “just politics”.

                To me, that behavior — and the behavior we are describing here — exemplifies corruption.

                • I reject the rape comparison.

                  There was either consent or there wasn’t, and I fall firmly in the camp of the absence of an explicit yes should be assumed to mean no. I also think that giving jobs to obviously unqualified persons as patronage or with the expectation of some favor sounds pretty intentionally corrupt. I am a little reluctant to call someone corrupt if they are doing what the law allows, even if it is the law itself that may need fixing.

          • We wring our hands over it for three reasons

            1) It’s bad politics

            This was gift wrapped to Baker. Maybe deliberately, what does DeLeo care if he gets a huge raise and can blame all the cuts on a Republican scapegoat?

            2) It’s bad for House Reform

            These wasn’t across the board but targeted to the Speaker and his allies. It’s a public slush fund for him to reward supporters and punish enemies like he did to Jon Hecht.

            3) No new raises before new revenue

            I’m not a Howie Carr, a millionaire faux populist bitching and moaning about salaries all the time. I am a progressive who hates to see raises for legislators take priority over needed social services and infrastructure projects that had been cut. I’m an aspiring teacher who wishes they got raises, especially in this climate that’s hostile to thag profession. So yeah-lets raise enough revenue so everyone gets a fair share including our elected officials. Until then this is a perk for the powerful and another way to show voters the connected get what the want.

            • Regarding the House reform part...

              …you know it could not constitutionally be across the board, right? Also, it DOES make sense for leadership to get stipends, so the “Speaker and his allies” aspect is a function of other things that need to be fixed about internal rules and not money per se.

              • Why?

                it DOES make sense for leadership to get stipends

                Why? What’s the case?

                • Isn't it obvious?

                  They do a fair bit more work than the backbenchers. In addition to representing and serving their constituents they have committees to chair, including planning, etc., vote-corralling duties, and of course the Speaker is the administrator of the House. Of course they put in a lot more time than their non-leadership colleagues. I’m sorry, but I really cannot believe I have to answer that question.

          • Why?

            There should be a set salary plus a standard formula for expenses.

            Who sets the salary? Under my proposal it is, within the window, what they make in the private sector. Nobody has to decide. Nobody has to come up with a formula. Nobody has to be pitted, in the political arena, against each other for the reason and purpose of financial gain. The problem is solved.

            Corruption means bribes and kickbacks and I don’t see that here.

            Corruption means that which was once good gone bad. Not gone wrong. Gone bad. And it is not limited to criminality. Your system, of a set salary plus a standard formula for expense, which is what we have now, has led to this corruption of the political process whereby the political self-interest of the governor is pitted against the financial self-interest of the legislators and all kinds of inducements, blandishments and lures, using TAXPAYER money and democratically empowered offices, is used for the wrong purposes. That, too, is corruption.

            • Every job should have a set compensation...

              …and no, legislating is not one where we should somehow determine ad hoc based on experience. The current system isn’t perfect, but yours is worse as it pays different people differently for doing the same job, rewards those who have already been successful and punishes those who have not. We could either have a 27th amendment or also constitutionalize expenses and stipends as a certain percentage of base pay.

  3. Distorted coverage, irrelevant discussion

    According to sources like NPR, only $2.8M goes to increased “salaries and office expenses for lawmakers”. That same report says that $12.4M goes to the judicial branch (emphasis mine):

    House officials estimate the bill will cost $4.1 million this fiscal year, and $17.8 million over the course of a full year beginning in fiscal 2018. Of that annual cost, $2.8 million more will go toward salaries and office expenses for lawmakers, while $12.4 million will go toward pay hikes for judges and court clerks.

    So this report suggests that the overwhelming majority of the increase will go to judges and court clerks — an increase that I think everyone agrees is well-deserved.

    Even the NPR report doesn’t add up, though. The two detail numbers cited (2.8 and 12.4) add up to $15.2M, significantly less than the “$17.8 M” claimed “over the course of a full year”. Yet when the “$4.1 M” for “this fiscal year” is added, the result — $19.3M — is significantly larger than the cited $17.8 M.

    My takeaway is that we’re seeing a lot more noise than signal in pretty much every aspect of this story. I’m not sure I understand why the media have such a hard time getting the numbers right. While the raise for legislators is surely titillating, it is dwarfed by the raise for judges and court clerks.

    The media focus on the legislature is distorted, to the point of dishonest (as in “lie”). For example, this story from usually-reliable masslive seems to get the facts wrong in both the headline and the lead. The first sentence of this piece is “Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday vetoed a bill that aims to raise the pay of legislative leaders and other elected officials, calling it ‘fiscally irresponsible.’” If the NPR story is correct, and most of this increase goes to judges and court clerks, then the phrase “legislative leaders and other elected officials” is just WRONG.

    I’m much more receptive to raising the compensation of judges and court clerks. I also remain convinced that we should insist that each dollar of increased compensation like this come from raising taxes on the wealthiest residents of the state.

  4. John is wrong

    You won’t see this coupled with new revenue raised from the wealthiest or a fair wage law, because the legislature has already punted on those two issues. Just as it is dragging it’s feet on the possibly revenue windfall of a legalized marijuana monopoly in the northeast. Had the legislature showed any rush to raise revenue through those channels, and had it shown more leadership instead of allowing all of Baker’s cuts to go through, then a raise makes sense.

    Right now service cuts to our most vulnerable matched with raises to some of our least vulnerable. Pairing the raises with new revenues and bans on outside work would give real teeth to your argument, since that hasn’t happened, this is just another DeLeo power grab. Enabled by a vast majority of legislators, including most in the relatively toothless progressive caucus. Glad they all wore pink two saturdays ago though….

  5. The Commonwealth gets a deserved raise in its tax receivables

    Another way to make this work, JTM. You say a raise in receivables – I am not sure any of this counts as income, as it is reimbursement for perceived expense. IS the existing housing allowance taxable to the state? ARE per diems as they stand..stood..taxable? Will the new $20 – $40 k be taxable? Because it isn’t INCOME, it’s just money they get. This might be a nice preview of how the Millionaire’s tax will pan out – the legal distinctions between Income and Money You Get.

    Another way to up the receivables tomorrow would be to cease the exemption on MA State Retiree checks for state income taxes, which all those with a state pension do not pay.

    • Retirees? Really?

      It sounds like you propose to make state retirees — very few of which are wealthy — foot the bill for the government’s refusal to raise taxes enough to cover its own needed compensation increases.

      Is that what you really mean? Are you really that cruel?

      I agree with you that raising the income tax is a red herring. Better would be to raise the capital-gains tax and estate taxes for gains and estates over high and inflation-adjusted thresholds.

      I strongly suspect that most state retirees do not have capital gains in excess of — say — $1 M/year (to choose an arbitrary number). I think that the people who should pay more taxes are the wealthiest residents of Massachusetts — such as Abigail Johnson — rather than those trying to scrape by on meager state pensions.

    • People with state pensions

      do not get social security, which also isn’t taxed.

      So why should the state pensions be taxed?

      Another issue: taxing state pensions would be a *huge* cut in their income, one they understandably did not plan for and one in which most retirees would not be able to offset.

      Your proposal would literally cost many people their homes — and not the wealthy ones, either.

      Did you consider these things?

      • Social Security has been taxable for decades.

        And state tax is a flat 5%. Receiving 95% of their pension is going to cost retirees their homes?

        • from instruction booklet

          ” Massachusetts does not tax Social Security
          income; therefore, you should not report such income
          on Massachusetts Form 1.”

          • I misunderstood what Ryan was saying

            I thought he meant Federally taxed, so he was comparing SS to state pensions. And many state retirees do collect both, if they either worked 40 quarters or have it as a survivor benefit assuming it is larger than the pension payment due to the offset.

            • Yes, I oversimplified it

              but any person with a state pension who’s getting a good chunk of change from social security is only getting that good chunk of change because their pension isn’t exactly affording them a life in the lap of luxury.

              • I GET PENSION AND SS

                as a retired state employee :

                MONTHLY ANNUAL
                PENSION
                1037 12,444

                SOCIAL SECURITY
                877 10,524

                TOTAL YEARLY INCOME 22,968

                Oscar Wilde said it best : ” Americans know the price of everything and the
                value of nothing.”

                Fred Rich LaRiccia

  6. Judges

    I don’t have a strong view on the executive and legislative pieces here, but judges are underpaid, and a judicial pay raise is overdue.

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