I have received some messages about the bill that passed into law this week regarding compensation. First I want to clear up any misinformation that might be out there about the vote and what it does/doesn't do. I did not expect that my first vote would be related to compensation, but I hope this post addresses some of your concerns and shows why I ultimately believed that this legislation was fair.
First and foremost -- I did not vote for an increase to my compensation. I voted for a bill (H.58 -- the full text can be found here -- https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H58) that adjusted leadership stipends, the compensation of Constitutional officers (e.g., Governor and Treasurer), and judges. That bill, however, did not adjust my base pay. That is up to the Governor, every two years, according to the cost of living index (a process passed by through a referendum of the voters). As a freshman State Rep, I will not be receiving a leadership stipend. What did change for me is the removal of the per diem (travel stipend to Boston) and those funds were shifted into the funding for constituent services and district offices, a change that I welcomed.
The legislation was based on a 2014 bipartisan commission report, which recommended much higher increases, due to inflation. You can read it here: https://www.umb.edu/editor_uploads/images/mgs/Final_Report_Special_Advisory_Commission-NOV30.pdf
To go into the details a bit further, the legislation removes the per diem (for travel to Boston) which lacks transparency, can be falsified, and is hard to budget around. I think it had good intentions (equalizing the pay across the state, but wasn't the best system). What I like even better is the money from that has been shifted into the district office accounts.
Leadership stipends had not been adjusted in 20-30 years (depending on the role) largely due to the fact no one in the Legislature wants to vote on compensation. Also the Speaker, Senate President, and Constitutional officers will no longer be able to have outside employment to supplement their income, and this clears up concerns about future conflicts of interest related to their outside work.
And we shouldn't have to take this up again because the stipends are now indexed to inflation -- similar to our base pay which we (as legislators) can't change, only the Governor.
Also this is completely funded within the current budget line item and won't affect any other program, which would have been a deal breaker for me. The majority of the costs that have been cited are related to the judiciary stipends, which will be phased in over three fiscal years in four step increases. Prior to this legislation, judges salaries in Massachusetts were ranked 45th in the nation.
I was extremely disappointed to find out my first vote as State Representative would be regarding compensation. However, I have learned that whether the vote happened this session, last session, or next session, it would have to be one of the first votes taken, before Committee Chairs are assigned, to avoid any ethical issues with members voting for their own increases. Again, as a Freshman, I will not receive a leadership stipend.
Please let me know if you have any more questions. I would be happy to talk to you on the phone (978-602-3772) or during my evening office hours, Mondays at the Library 5:30-7:00PM, or Fridays from 7:00-8:00AM rotating throughout the city.