State legislative leaders are entitled to three separate pay raises starting Friday, and the salaries of some of the state’s top elected officials could swell by more than $9,000, thanks, in part, to a controversial law that will help ensure they get a third pay increase in as many legislative sessions.
The round of pay hikes land at an economically fragile time across Massachusetts, when restaurants, bars, and other businesses are struggling to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic and the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent — more than double what it was a year ago.
Each of the state’s 200 senators and representatives is in line for a $4,280 increase to their base salaries, as well as a separate 4.89 percent hike to their office expense accounts, which currently range between $16,245 and $21,660, depending on how far lawmakers live from the State House.
Additionally, dozens of officials in the House and Senate will receive a 4.89 percent bump to their legislative stipends, the lucrative add-ons the Legislature grants its highest-ranking officials, committee chairs, and others.
For Senate President Karen E. Spilka and newly elected House Speaker Ronald Mariano, that means their total compensation could rise to nearly $178,500 — a roughly $9,000 increase from what Spilka and Mariano’s predecessor, Robert A. DeLeo, collected in 2020.
Constitutional officers, too, are entitled to hefty pay bumps. Governor Charlie Baker could take home at least $9,000 more on top of his $250,000 pay package, though his office said the Republican doesn’t intend to take the extra pay. Other constitutional officers could score increases ranging between more than $8,000 and $9,000.
The windfall for elected officials is a confluence of two different pay adjustments — one guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution, the other baked into state law starting in 2017. Each is designed to tether the pay of the state’s most powerful leaders to changes in the state’s wage levels every two years.
The first, a constitutional amendment, ties lawmakers’ base pay to household median income. But the language gives the governor wide leeway to set the exact amount of the change. In a letter to state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg dated Wednesday and released by his office Thursday, Baker ordered a 6.46 percent increase for legislators, pushing their base salary from $66,250 to roughly $70,530.
The pay hike tops the 5.9 percent raise Baker gave lawmakers starting in 2019.
The second trigger is more complicated. In pushing an $18 million pay raise package into law over Baker’s objection in January 2017, lawmakers boosted their own compensation by increasing the stipends they could receive, while also hiking the pay of an array of state officials.
The Legislature also established a separate process, similar to the mechanism in the constitutional amendment, that ties the salaries of the six constitutional officers and lawmakers’ additional pay to changes in state wages over the previous two years.
Goldberg’s office, which is not legally required to perform the biennial analysis but since 2018 has done so by default, determined that constitutional officers are entitled to a 4.89 percent pay raise, starting Friday. That adjustment also applies to lawmakers’ expenses and leadership stipends.
It’s up to each individual legislator and elected official whether to accept the raises at a time when the state economy continues to be buffeted by the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions in place to slow the virus’s spread.
A spokesman for Mariano said the lawmaker will accept the pay raises. Spilka’s office did not immediately respond to questions Thursday night about whether she will take the increases.
A spokesman for Baker said neither he nor Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito — who makes $165,000 annually — will accept their pay increase. Baker currently makes $185,000, in addition to a $65,000 housing stipend.
Goldberg said she, too, will not take the increase. The Brookline Democrat currently makes just under $190,000.
“Although the law provides for this increase, I feel with so many people hurting, now is not the time to consider something like this,” Goldberg said in a statement to the Globe.
Aides to Attorney General Maura Healey, state Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, and Secretary of State William F. Galvin did not immediately respond to questions whether they will accept the raises.
Currently making $185,377, Healey could collect a $9,000 raise. Bump and Galvin could make about $8,700 on top of their $178,700 salaries.
Legislators and other elected officials similarly got rounds of pay increases in 2019, two years after the pay raise package first went into effect. That law also increased the salaries for the state’s judges and a slew of other officials, including court clerks and assistant clerks and the Suffolk County register of deeds. But it did not create biennial adjustments for them as it did for the constitutional officers and legislators.