The state’s politically powerful sheriffs could score major salary increases under a House-passed proposal that, should it survive budget negotiations, would push the majority of the 14 sheriffs’ pay to nearly $170,000 a year in July.
The 12 percent hikes were tucked into one of the nine bulging packages of earmarks and other policy changes the House passed as part of its budget last month.
Sheriffs in a dozen counties, including Suffolk, Middlesex, and Worcester, would see their pay rise from $151,709 to $169,914, while those in Dukes and Nantucket, where sheriffs are paid less, would see smaller bumps to $134,144 and $107,314, respectively.
The increases are, in fact, a step down from the initial proposal. The original amendment called for increasing the salary of each of the state’s 14 sheriffs to $191,000, a move that would have, for example, more than doubled the Nantucket sheriff’s current $95,816 pay.
The amendment was filed by Representative John J. Lawn, a Watertown Democrat whose predecessor, Peter J. Koutoujian, is currently the Middlesex County sheriff and president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association, which specifically made the request.
Koutoujian spoke directly to Lawn about the amendment, a Koutoujian spokesman said. Efforts to reach Lawn were not successful Friday.
The original $191,000 request wasn’t random, either. It’s the same salary House budget writers proposed last month for the state’s 11 district attorneys. At the time, House officials called their $20,000 increase “a modest cost of living adjustment,” noting that the prosecutors hadn’t gotten a raise since 2014, when their pay was set at $171,561.
The sheriffs are arguing the same thing.
“Similar to the district attorneys, sheriffs have not had a cost of living increase in the last five years,” Koutoujian said in a statement. “We are grateful for the House’s leadership in acknowledging this in their [fiscal year 2020] budget.”