State legislative leaders stand to collect not one, not two, but three different pay raises in January thanks to a humming economy and a controversial state law, promising to swell some lawmakers’ paychecks by nearly $12,000 just two years after they awarded themselves a pay hike.
All of the state’s 200 senators and representatives are in line for a $3,700 increase to their base salary and a separate 8.3 percent hike to their office expense accounts, which currently range between $15,000 and $20,000, depending on how far they live from the State House.
When they’re sworn in Wednesday, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Karen E. Spilka — both already among the highest-paid legislative leaders in the country — and dozens of their top deputies will also get a third increase — an 8.3 percent raise to their legislative stipends, the lucrative add-ons the Legislature affords to its highest-ranking officials and committee leaders.
And the good economic tidings don’t stop with the Legislature. Governor Charlie Baker is entitled to take home an additional $21,000 on top of his $250,000 pay package, though aides say the Republican doesn’t intend to take the extra pay. Other constitutional officers could score increases of up to nearly $15,000.
The windfall for elected officials is, in part, a confluence of two different pay adjustments — one guaranteed by the Massachusetts Constitution, the other newly baked into state law — each designed to tether the pay of the state’s most powerful leaders to changes in the state’s wage levels every two years.
The first, a constitutional amendment, ties lawmakers’ base pay to household median income, but gives the governor leeway to set the exact amount of the change. In a letter to state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg on Thursday, Baker ordered a 5.9 percent increase for legislators, pushing their base salary from $62,550 to $66,250.
The second trigger is more complicated. In ramming an $18 million pay raise package into law in early 2017, lawmakers boosted their own compensation by increasing the stipends they could receive, while also hiking the pay of an array of state officials.
The Legislature also established a separate process, similar to the mechanism in the constitutional amendment, that ties the salaries of the six constitutional officers and lawmakers’ additional pay to changes in state wages over the previous two years.
That first biennial change under the legislation comes due next week. But while the pay raise package specified what type of federal data on which to base the adjustment, its vague wording did not task a certain office or official with actually determining it.
Goldberg’s office, which handles legislative pay, said Thursday that “by default” it would take on the duty, and determined those pay scales would rise by 8.3 percent in 2019. Chandra Allard, Goldberg’s deputy chief of staff, said the office would apply it to both legislative stipends and expenses, as well as Goldberg’s own salary, which will jump to nearly $190,000.
Allard said the treasurer’s office would share the recommended increase with the other constitutional officers as well, though it will ultimately be up to them whether to accept it.
For the Legislature, the move promises an array of increases.
DeLeo, for example, made $157,500 last year, thanks to his base salary, an $80,000 stipend, and $15,000 in office expenses. After the hikes go into effect, his total compensation will balloon to $169,100 — a jump of $11,600. That same pay package will also welcome Spilka when she starts her first full term as the Senate leader.
Other lawmakers will see smaller increases, depending on which leadership positions they’re appointed to in the new legislative session.
Spilka on Thursday defended the increases, noting that the process for meting them out has been in place since early 2017.
“This law, passed two years ago, created a transparent and standardized method to adjust pay and stipends for constitutional officers and legislators,” Spilka said. “We expect these adjustments to be made, in accordance with the law, through normal payroll mechanisms beginning in the new year.”
A spokeswoman for DeLeo did not respond to questions Thursday about the pay increases.
Baker — whose veto of the pay raise bill was overridden in 2017 — has said he intends to take the full $250,000 pay package afforded to him under the law in his second term, which includes a $65,000 housing stipend. His salary is currently $151,000. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who makes $122,000 now, also plans to take her statutorily set $165,000 salary.
But both said Thursday that they would not take any additional pay generated by the biennial adjustment tied to state wage levels. For Baker, that could have meant another $20,800, and Polito, an additional $13,700 in annual pay.
“Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito will not accept any additional adjustments to their compensation beyond what was originally provided by the 2017 statute,” spokesman Brendan Moss said.
The state auditor and secretary of state, who under the law can make up to $165,000, would also be in line for $13,700 more through the 8.3 percent increase. Similar to the treasurer, the $175,000 salary afforded to the attorney general would also rise to more than $190,000 — a $14,560 difference.
When lawmakers passed the pay raise package in 2017, only Auditor Suzanne M. Bump took the full pay raise among the state’s six constitutional officers, and each would have to decide whether to accept the new pay as well.
Goldberg, for example, declined the initial raise to $175,000 in 2017, but Allard said she would take that salary, and the additional adjustment, when she begins her second term in January.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura T. Healey said the Charlestown Democrat will also accept the increase to $190,000 given she “declined to take the midterm raise two years ago.”
Efforts to reach aides to Bump and Secretary of State William F. Galvin were not successful Thursday night.
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 it did not bake in biennial adjustments for them as it did for the constitutional officers and legislators.