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House staff to get 6 percent pay hikes

Hundreds of employees working for the state’s House of Representatives will receive a 6 percent pay hike, according to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office.
Hundreds of employees working for the state’s House of Representatives will receive a 6 percent pay hike, according to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2018)

Hundreds of employees working for the state’s House of Representatives will receive a 6 percent pay hike, according to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office, which Tuesday estimated the pay package will cost $1.35 million.

The pay bumps, which a DeLeo aide described as cost-of-living increases, mark the fourth in as many sessions for House staff, which now number more than 500 and includes legislative aides, chiefs of staff, communication directors, and other employees making an average of $39,000 a year, according to state payroll records.

The state Senate has awarded 3 percent raises to its 277 full-time staff members both this year and last, though Senate President Karen E. Spilka’s office couldn’t say Tuesday when the most recent pay increase went into effect.

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Catherine Williams, a DeLeo spokeswoman, said the costs of the House raises will be absorbed by the chamber’s existing $40.2 million budget. The pay increases will go effect in the current two-week pay period, according to the DeLeo’s office.

“The House reviews cost of livings adjustments biannually and has budgeted to make the change every two years since 2012,” Williams said.

DeLeo has routinely announced the biennial raises for House staff ahead of Thanksgiving. In 2014 and 2016, he announced House employees get raises on the eve of the holiday, totaling $1.6 million and $1.3 million, respectively, aides said at the time. Similar to this year, his office said the costs would not require additional funds for the House budget, which like other line items is voted on by Legislature and signed by Governor Charlie Baker.

Those pay hikes also came in stretches when the state was struggling with flagging revenues and looming cuts. Two years ago, for example, the Baker administration was in the midst of finalizing buy-outs for hundreds of state employees in a cost-cutting measure.

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This cycle, the state has faced no such problems: It finished last fiscal year with more than $1 billion in unexpected revenue, and officials said this month it had already built a $350 million cushion above estimates four months into this fiscal year, which began in July.

State House staff are among the last to receive extra compensation this legislative session.

Legislative leaders last year pushed a controversial bill into law awarding themselves, judges, constitutional officers, and an array of other public offices pay hikes as part of an $18 million package.

DeLeo and the Senate president each saw their pay rise from $97,500 to $142,500, plus additional money for office and travel expenses. The majority leader in each chamber scored nearly $40,000 more a year in higher stipends. At the time, DeLeo said he didn’t think “there’s ever any right time or place” to announce pay raises.

Baker vetoed the bill, which he called fiscally irresponsible. But he, too, said he now intends to take the additional pay carved out for his office, which will push his compensation to $250,000 annually. That’s nearly $100,000 more than he currently makes.

The Senate is currently analyzing its staff salaries and titles to “ensure that all Senate staff are compensated properly,” Spilka’s office said Tuesday. The chamber began the process in reaction to the pay equity legislation that went into effect in July and encourages employers to perform a “self-evaluation” of its salaries and pay practices.

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Reach Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout