A new legislative session in the Legislature typically kicks off with a string of votes setting the rules for the following two years.
But this year, before taking up the rules (or even finalizing offices and committee assignments), the House and Senate voted to raise the salaries and stipends for ranking legislative officers (such as Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, among others), state constitutional officers (Governor Charlie Baker, AG Maura Healey, etc.), and judges.
And then the Thursday before last, both chambers easily overrode Governor Baker’s veto, with dissent coming from Republicans, a handful of conservative Democrats, and a trio of progressive Democrats (Jon Hecht of Watertown, Denise Provost of Somerville, and Mike Connolly of Cambridge).
Let’s be clear: paying public servants well is important to good governance.
If such offices are not well-compensated, then only those who are already well-off will be interested in running or serving.
And sufficient compensation can also reduce the need for legislators to have jobs on the side, a Pandora’s box of ethics conflicts.
Nonetheless, given the details and the context of the pay raise, it should be no surprise that it has rubbed many progressive voters the wrong way.
First of all, the bill was rushed through at the start of the session without the deliberation and public input that a democratic process necessitates. The numbers in the bill did not come out of thin air—they stem from a 2014 Advisory Commission. But the report has sat largely dormant since then. A report is no substitute for public hearings and debate.
But, more importantly, the whole episode reflects poorly on the Legislature’s priorities.
Although some Democratic legislators have spoken out against Governor Baker’s recent $98 million 9C cuts, they have acquiesced to a framework of austerity year after year for the state budget, averse to raising new revenue and content to underinvest in our public infrastructure, from transit and schools.
Funding the pay raise will require either new revenue or new cuts, and Beacon Hill always seems to prefer the latter.
Moreover, despite Democrats’ overwhelmingly large veto-proof majorities in both houses, Leadership (as well as many in the rank-and-file) has adopted a chummy and non-confrontational relationship with Governor Baker. They rarely send bills to his desk that they expect him to veto. This one is a notable profile in courage…for legislator raises.
It is true that during budget season, Democrats will override line item vetoes (particularly on earmarks), but, overall, the Legislature is advancing a bold and comprehensive progressive agenda—in rhetoric or action–regardless of the affable Governor’s disposition.
The pay raise now is a done deal. We do not subscribe to a conservative frame of starving the beast and drowning governments in bathtubs. But there’s a reason why their actions feel out of touch.
So here’s a challenge to those on Beacon Hill:
If you are willing to override Governor Baker’s veto to give yourselves a raise, then do the same to give workers across the Commonwealth a raise by passing a $15 minimum wage.
If you are willing to override Governor Baker’s veto to give yourselves greater stipends, then do so as well to guarantee workers across the state a necessary benefit like paid family and medical leave.
And if you are willing to override Governor Baker’s veto to invest more in yourselves, then do so to invest in the Commonwealth.
Cross-posted from Progressive Massachusetts.
Want to do something? Contact your legislators to urge them to co-sponsor the Fight for $15 bill and other items on the Shared Prosperity Agenda (No deadline for co-sponsoring Senate bills!).
on the national, state and local levels. ALL elected officials should be held accountable ALL the time.
Call your state representative and state senator @ 617-722-2000.
Fred Rich LaRiccia
who tells the workers making less that $15 an hour to “improve their job skills and education”…..the “trickle down” of neoliberal Democrats.
… for shitting all over those making $15/hr, or less, who are also attending night and/or weekend classes, who are part-time scholars trying to “improve their job skills and education,” and who have done so of their own volition.
I get that you don’t think ‘improving job skills and education’ is a comprehensively adequate solution. I might even agree with the macro-economics of that… however, in drastic pique, you go too far and portray it as an active harm, when it is not. Comparing it to ‘trickle-down’ economics betrays the comparisons you make and invites a retort involving a request to further educate yourself.
There are many people, no matter what any politician has said, who are trying to improve their lot through education. This is a good thing. Should politicians encourage it? Absolutely. Anybody saying that’s the extent of the Democrats strategy? Only you.
Add in the secrecy, the way it was rammed through, what it shows about leadership control and being able to do as it pleases – toxic to faith in government. So nevertheless we must persist in electing legislators who will be accountable to the electorate and not servile to someone like Deleo.