The pay of Massachusetts’ top elected officials, including Governor-elect Maura Healey, is set to swell by 20 percent in the new year, and the salaries of the Legislature’s top leaders could surge past $200,000, their fourth pay raise in as many legislative sessions.
The pay hikes — many in the Legislature will actually see three distinct increases — will be some of the largest on Beacon Hill since 2017, when lawmakers passed a controversial pay raise package.
That law not only boosted elected leaders’ salaries at the time, but it tied the pay of the state’s six statewide constitutional officers, as well as the stipends and expenses lawmakers receive, to changes in state wages every two years.
For those who are set to take office next month, that means big raises over what they or their predecessors previously received, according to the state treasurer’s office.
For Healey, who is set to be sworn in next week, the 20 percent increase would push her base salary to $222,185 — or $37,185 more than what Governor Charlie Baker currently is paid. When adding the $65,000 housing allowance the governor receives, her total compensation would jump to $287,185.
For the lieutenant governor-elect, Kim Driscoll, the salary would swell to more than $198,000 from $165,000.
The attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, and state auditor are all entitled to 20 percent increases. Diana DiZoglio, the auditor-elect and currently a state senator, would have the highest annual salary of the four, at $229,377.
Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano will see their pay increase by nearly $25,000, pushing their total compensation to more than $203,000.
It’s up to each individual legislator and elected official whether to accept the raise, and the decision could provide an early political test for Healey. The Cambridge Democrat championed tax cuts on the campaign trail and pitched herself as a candidate attuned to residents’ economic pain amid rising inflation and energy costs.
A spokeswoman for Healey and Driscoll said Thursday that both will “accept the salary that has been established by statute.”
Attorney General-elect Andrea Campbell said she will also take the increase. Her pay will rise to $222,639; Healey, the current attorney general, makes $185,378. DiZoglio said through a spokesman she would also take the higher salary.
The windfall is actually a confluence of two different pay adjustments: one guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution, the other baked into 2017 law. Though each is designed to tether the pay of the state’s most powerful leaders to changes in the state’s wage levels, they give officials latitude in determining how they are calculated and, in this year’s case, the adjustments are based on different sets of data.
The first mechanism, a constitutional amendment, ties lawmakers’ base pay to household median income. The language, however, gives the governor wide leeway to set the exact amount of the change. In a letter to state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg dated Thursday, Governor Charlie Baker ordered a 4.42 percent increase for legislators, pushing their base salary from about $70,537 to $73,654.
The second-term Republican, who leaves office next week, said his office used data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in determining the change.
The second trigger is more complicated. While the Legislature established a separate but similar mechanism to the constitutional amendment in its 2017 law, its vague wording did not charge a specific office or official with actually calculating it.
Goldberg’s office is not legally required to perform the biennial analysis but since 2018 has done so by default. Her office on Thursday said it determined that statewide constitutional officers are entitled to a 20.1 percent pay raise, starting Sunday; the adjustment also applies to lawmakers’ expenses and leadership stipends, the lucrative add-ons the Legislature grants its highest-ranking officials, committee chairs, and others.
A spokesman for Goldberg’s office said it used the aggregate quarterly change in salaries and wages “for the most recent eight quarters, as determined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the United States Department of Commerce.”
Under that determination, legislator expense accounts, which currently range between $17,040 and $22,720 depending on how far lawmakers live from the State House, will grow by as much as $4,566. And the array of leadership stipends lawmakers receive could rise even more.
A spokesman for Mariano said he would accept the salary that Goldberg’s office “deems correct, based on the law.” Aides to Spilka did not respond to a request for comment.
Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito declined more modest increases in both 2019 and 2021, and two years ago, Goldberg also rejected a raise. At the time, the state economy was still weathering the impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions the state had in place to slow the virus’s spread.
It’s unclear if Goldberg, who will start her third four-year term next month, will take the current increase, which would push her pay to nearly $228,000. “At this time, I will need to review it,” the Brookline Democrat said in a statement.
The pay hikes, and their size, appeared to catch some off guard.
“That’s news to me,” Secretary of State William F. Galvin said through a spokeswoman when informed of the 20 percent increase he’s due. Galvin, who is slated to begin his eighth term, said he was expecting an increase similar to the 4.4 percent hike Baker ordered for legislators’ base pay. Galvin’s pay is now in line to rise from $187,433 to $225,107.
“Whatever the percentage that has been determined, he doesn’t expect to concern himself with any potential pay raise until after next week’s swearing-in ceremonies are completed,” spokeswoman Deb O’Malley said.
Paul Craney, a spokesman for the conservative-leaning Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said the optics of the pay hikes are “really bad,” especially considering the state is readying to implement a voter-passed law raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents.
“There’s also a lot of anxiety in the middle class in Massachusetts. They’re worried about the cost of living, their own paying jobs,” Craney said. “I think the timing is awful.”
The 2017 pay raise legislation also increased the salaries for the state’s judges and a slew of other officials, from court clerks and assistant clerks to the Suffolk County register of deeds.
But while it did not include biennial adjustments for them as it did for the statewide constitutional officers and legislators, those officials are also seeing higher pay. As part of the state budget they passed in July, lawmakers included a round of 12.5 percent pay hikes for the state’s judges.
The Supreme Judicial Court chief justice’s salary, for example, rose by nearly $26,000 to $232,101 under the measure, while trial court justices’ increased to $207,855.
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.