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Legislative leaders aiming for 40 percent pay hikes

House Speaker Robert DeLeo.Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe/file

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, after days of negotiating, have scaled back their plans for pay raises, settling on a proposal that would give them $142,500 annual salaries — an unprecedented 40 percent increase over the $102,000 they receive now.

The proposed salary hikes are expected to zip through the House and Senate, with a goal of getting the package to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk by Thursday. The plan also includes a ban on outside income for legislative leaders. And it proposes a slew of other raises, including for the governor, whose salary would increase from $151,800 to $185,000.


The legislation, released late Monday with little explanation, also includes judicial pay raises. Massachusetts judges have not had a raise in almost decade.

The Democratic leaders, after initially floating the idea of giving themselves $175,000 annual salaries, are pushing the new raises at a time when the public’s attention is focused on the transition of power in Washington and the New England Patriots’ winning a place at the Super Bowl.

“This is the perfect storm for this to go through,’’ said one Democratic State House insider. “There is so much pressing news standing on top of us.”

The bill also gives hefty hikes to the leadership teams in both the House and Senate. For example, the extra compensation for chairing a committee would increase from $15,000 to $30,000. Vice chairmen would see their extra pay go from $10,000 to $15,000.

The Ways and Means Committee chairmen in both branches will get a $65,000 stipend above their base legislative $62,500 salary. The current stipend is $25,000 a year.

Two other positions — the Senate president pro tempore and House speaker pro tempore — will see their stipend rise to $50,000.

Significant salary increases were first recommended by a commission in late 2014. Legislative leaders note that stipends for leadership positions have not been raised for 33 years — though their base salaries are subject to cost-of-living increases.


The proposal also assures that the extra pay would take effect immediately, rather than after a traditional 90-day waiting period. Lawmakers attached a so-called emergency preamble, which allows for immediate implementation in cases where, according to the Constitution, it is “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety, or convenience.” (The pay raise legislation cites only the “public convenience.”)

Another effect of the emergency preamble: If opponents mounted a referendum to attempt to persuade Massachusetts voters to repeal the pay hikes at the polls in the 2018 election, the raises would not be suspended in the interim.

Meanwhile, a letter obtained by the Globe from the State Ethics Commission’s general counsel to the House and Senate legal counsel declares that lawmakers would not be in violation of a conflict-of-interest provision that prohibits lawmakers from voting on any matter they know would financially benefit them personally.

Under the law, financial interests must be direct or easily foreseeable to be in conflict. Deirdre Roney, the ethics commission lawyer, said she based her conclusion on the fact — when it comes to the legislative raises — that lawmakers are voting only on leadership stipends, not their base salaries.

DeLeo and Rosenberg have not yet officially made committee assignments or named lawmakers to leadership positions that carry the extra pay for the new legislative session. So all lawmakers are currently still rank-and-file members and therefore would not be directly voting for an extra pay schedule that would benefit them.


Baker has remained silent on whether he will sign or veto the pay hike bill. Legislative insiders are convinced they will be able to raise the necessary two-thirds vote to override a potential veto.

Shortly before meeting with legislative leaders on Monday, the governor said he wanted to wait to see the package before commenting.

“What I’ve said up until now hasn’t changed, which is I’ve not seen a proposal from them, and until I see a proposal, I’m not going to comment on it,” Baker told the Globe.

Baker stressed that neither he nor Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would accept a pay raise.

DeLeo and his leadership team were initially eager for the higher $175,000 raises, while Rosenberg was pushing to lower the number, according to a legislative source. If the raises are approved, they will greatly enhance the pensions of both DeLeo and Rosenberg, because pensions are based on the top three years of their salaries.

Chip Faulkner, communications director for Citizens for Limited Taxation, a fiscally conservative group that has beaten back legislative pay hikes in the past, lamented the apparent lack of public concern.

“It’s tough to get people upset the way they are doing it,” Faulkner said. “They are doing this in an underhanded way, and it seems we are not going to be able to do anything about it. There are other things people are focused on.”


Asked at a press gathering Monday whether he felt he deserved a raise, DeLeo said he was leaving that decision to his House colleagues.

The bill also calls for significant pay raises for constitutional officers. For instance, Attorney General Maura Healey, who is paid about $130,500, and State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who makes $128,000, would see their salaries rise to $175,000.

Frank Phillips can be reached at