Departing Senate President Therese Murray suggested Thursday evening that the state Legislature will not approve controversial pay hikes for the governor, top lawmakers, and other statewide elected officials this year.
“The Senate can’t act unless the House does, and I don’t see that there’s a movement to do that,” she said, speaking to reporters after delivering her farewell speech in the Senate chamber.
The comments come amid growing unease on Beacon Hill about passing the increases as the state cuts funding for environmental protection and mental-health services to close a budget shortfall of at least $329 million.
Governor-elect Charlie Baker and Attorney General-elect Maura Healey have come out against the proposed salary hikes. And three sitting, statewide elected officials have offered only tempered support, suggesting more modest increases or hikes phased in over time.
A salary advisory commission established by the Legislature released its recommendations for the pay increases Monday.
The panel suggested boosting the governor’s annual pay from $151,800 to $185,000, the attorney general’s salary from $130,582 to $175,000, and the Senate president’s and House speaker’s compensation from $102,279 to $175,000.
If adopted, the increases would make the Massachusetts governor the second-highest paid in the nation, after Pennsylvania. The legislative leaders would be the best-paid in the country, according to the commission’s report.
Lawmakers would probably have to pass increases before the end of the year if they were to take effect for the new class of statewide officials and legislators taking office in January.
But winning approval for the hikes this month would be difficult even without substantial political headwinds. The Legislature is in informal sessions until the end of the year. And a single lawmaker has the power to block legislation.
If legislative leaders gavel in a formal session in December, the proposed increases would stand a better chance of passage. But Murray, speaking on an unrelated question, said “there will not be a formal session” this month.
The Legislature could approve pay raises when it reconvenes next year, but some of them might not take effect until the session that begins in 2017.
Murray, who is leaving the Legislature, would not benefit from any pay hikes approved this month. But House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo would see a substantial raise. And the increase would have a long-term impact on his pension, which is calculated based on his top three earning years.
DeLeo released a statement earlier this week thanking the advisory commission for its work and saying “the report will now be reviewed.” A spokesman for the House speaker declined to offer any new comments Thursday.
Ira A. Jackson, chairman of the commission, acknowledged this week that pay raises for elected officials are controversial. But he said they were justified based on the officials’ responsibilities, compensation in other states, and the pay offered to private sector executives.
The panel estimated that its proposed hikes, which also would cover the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and auditor, would have a yearly net cost of about $934,000, out of a total state budget of more than $36 billion.
Murray, in her remarks to reporters Thursday, indicated that she has an idea of what she will do when she leaves office. But she said she will not reveal her intentions until January, when the new class of lawmakers is sworn in.
Her future plans have been a subject of speculation for months on Beacon Hill.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.