Despite weaker-than-expected tax collections that have the state weighing a new round of budget cuts, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo last week handed out 3 percent raises to all 460 House employees and Senate President Therese Murray gave 3 percent raises to a smaller handful of staff.
DeLeo’s office said the raises, which the speaker can grant at his own discretion, were justified because House employees have not seen a pay increase since September 2008. House employees received letters notifying them of the raise last week.
“It’s been more than four years since the last cost-of-living adjustment,” Seth Gitell, a DeLeo spokesman, said Monday. “Previously, employees received cost-of-living increases every one or, in many cases, every one or two years. There hasn’t been one in a long time.”
Gitell was not immediately able to say how much the raises would cost the state. He said the speaker would be able to pay for them within the House’s existing budget, in part because the total number of House employees has been cut from 546 when DeLeo took over in late Jan. 2009.
David Falcone, a Murray spokesman, said the 3 percent raises would be granted to employees who work directly for the Senate president. Individual senators can decide on their own whether to grant their aides similar raises, Falcone said.
Still, the pay hikes for House staffers come at a time of growing concern about the slow economic recovery and signs that the state could be forced to cut services to close a looming budget shortfall.
The Globe reported today that Governor Deval Patrick has curbed state hiring, halted an automatic income tax reduction, and begun identifying cuts in spending that may be necessary to balance the budget.
Recent tax collections have been disappointing, failing to measure up to last year’s levels. In October, revenues were $162 million short of budgetary estimates and $48 million below the level reached in October 2011.
State revenues are running $256 million behind budget and $33 million behind last year’s actual collection, officials said. As a result, Patrick’s budget chief has imposed constraints on discretionary spending and asked agency heads to start identifying spending cuts.Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.