In early 2021, with Massachusetts residents mired in a pandemic and the economic uncertainty it sowed, state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg and Secretary of State William F. Galvin each opted to forgo sizable pay raises to which they, and every other statewide constitutional officer, were entitled.
For Galvin, a pay hike “hasn’t been top of mind,” a spokeswoman said at the time. Goldberg was more direct: She publicly cited her constituents’ struggles, saying that while she was legally allowed more money, it was “not the time to consider something like this.”
Now, apparently, it is.
Two years after the fact, Goldberg and Galvin each quietly accepted those roughly $9,000 raises, ballooning their salaries and, in Goldberg’s case, helping now make her the state’s highest paid statewide elected official.
In addition to taking that two-year-old pay hike, Goldberg in recent weeks also accepted a 20 percent pay raise her office determined she and other constitutional officers were due this year. Combined, the third-term Brookline Democrat scored a $49,200 pay increase that pushed her salary to $238,794 a year.
That’s $16,000 more than the governor’s salary, and nearly $10,000 more than any other statewide elected official’s base pay. That Goldberg makes so much more than Governor Maura Healey is due, in part, to Healey’s predecessor, Charlie Baker, who repeatedly turned down past raises, keeping the governor’s salary static.
Galvin told the State House News Service this month that he wasn’t accepting the latest 20 percent hike “at this time,” making him the only one of the six statewide constitutional officers to decline the extra money.
But in late November, weeks after he won his record eighth term, he did take the $8,700 raise first afforded to him at the start of 2021, payroll records show, which Galvin subsequently confirmed to the Globe. He currently makes $187,433, the least of any of the state’s statewide constitutional officers.
In a Globe interview this week, the Brighton Democrat also kept the door open to taking the 20 percent raise later in his new four-year term. Should he, his annual salary would jump to $225,107.
“Is it possible? Sure. Am I sure of it? I am not,” Galvin said. “If inflation were to continue at a very high amount, I would have to think about it.”
It does not appear Goldberg and Galvin violated any law or rule by claiming the extra pay so long after it became available. If anything, their ability to do so underscores the complex system lawmakers created under a controversial law in 2017 to adjust their pay, along with the salaries of statewide elected officials, every two years going forward.
But an elected official’s decision to accept, or decline, an available taxpayer-funded pay raise can also be shaped by political optics. Several officials, for example, turned down the initial pay hikes in 2017 after lawmakers passed them at a time of persistent budget gaps.
When Goldberg first announced in late December that she and other statewide officials were due a 20 percent raise, she said she’d have to review it, while emphasizing her decision two years ago to turn it down.
“As you probably recall,” she said in a statement to the Globe at the time, “I did not take any pay increase during the COVID 19 pandemic.”
In a statement Friday, her office now said she did not take it “initially.”
“The Treasurer chose not to take the last raise,” a spokesman said, “not at the time, and not over the last two years, because of the uncertainty of a global pandemic and how it was impacting people then. This year, she chose to take the raise.”
Galvin defended his decision to accept the 5 percent raise some 23 months after it was first available, arguing that if he were trying to “maximize my options” — such as increasing the value of his pension with a higher salary — he would have accepted it earlier.
“I chose to wait for the voters to decide,” he said, explaining that he took the raise only after he won reelection in November. Galvin also said he did not seek to hide it when addressing a question from the State House News Service on whether he’d take the 20 percent hike.
“I did not know back in November that they were going to come in with any kind of increase [for 2023],” he said. “There’s nothing disingenuous about what I did. I could have taken it at any time.”
Galvin, too, has turned down extra pay in the past, including in 2017 when he accepted a portion of the $35,000 pay hike allowed to him under that law. He also said he’s in the process of raising the salaries of dozens of some of the lowest-paid employees within his office — some by 7 percent or more — including in the corporations division and the state’s archives facility.
“There’s no hidden story here,” Galvin said. “This is not a part of a plan of, ‘well, I’m waiting until next week’” to take the 20 percent raise.
How much state elected officials’ pay changes every two years is determined by two separate processes.
Adjustments to lawmakers’ base pay are spelled out in the Massachusetts Constitution, which ties changes to household median income. The language, however, gives the governor wide leeway to set the exact amount of the change, and Baker’s office in December said it used data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to determine lawmakers’ were owed a 4.42 percent increase.
Separately, the 2017 law calls for biennial adjustments to not only constitutional officers’ salaries, but also the expenses and leadership stipends state lawmakers can claim on top of their salaries. It ties those changes to a specific data set: the aggregate quarterly change in salaries and wages in the state for the most recent eight quarters, as determined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the United States Department of Commerce.
But the law doesn’t task a specific office with doing the actual calculation; Goldberg’s office said it took the role on by default.
Since those biennial raises from the law began rolling out in 2019, it’s created a game of will-they-won’t-they over whether officials will actually accept them. Baker, for example, routinely declined to take raises — though after refusing the law’s initial “drastic” pay hike to $185,000 in 2017, he did take it after winning his second term in 2018.
Goldberg also declined an initial $47,000 raise in 2017, when her salary was $133,132. She then took a raise in 2019, when it jumped to $185,879.
Healey, then attorney general, also declined to take an initial $45,000 hike under the law. She then took a raise in 2019, but declined another one for 2021. This year, her first as governor, she accepted the recent 20 percent pay bump, which pushed her salary to $222,185, not including a $65,000 housing stipend she’s also afforded.
But among constitutional officers, her pay lags. State auditor Diana DiZoglio ($229,377) and Healey’s successor, Attorney General Andrea Campbell ($222,639), both have higher salaries, as does Goldberg. Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll makes $198,165.
“The whole thing is a mess,” Galvin said of the pay raise process.