LEOMINSTER -- Today I voted in support of a piece of legislation related to the compensation of the Legislature, Constitutional Officers, and the Judiciary. This was not an easy decision for me to make, but after talking to a number of Leominster residents, I believe it is the right one.
This legislation is the product of a data-driven review of compensation for public officials by a bi-partisan special advisory commission. There are many parts of the bill that I believe are smart policy changes, including the reform of the per diem compensation, the shifting of that funding to the poorly resourced district offices, and the preclusion of the Constitutional Officers, and House Speaker and Senate President from earning outside income. Moreover, this legislation will not impact taxpayers and will be funded within the current appropriation for the 2017 fiscal year.
When I was campaigning, the issue of per diem compensation came up time and time again. While it had the good intentions of equalizing the offices across the State, it was not necessarily transparent, could be taken advantage of, was not friendly when it came to budget planning.
Importantly, funding has been shifted from the per diems into the budget for district offices, and while I am fortunate to have a district office in a municipal building, not all of my colleagues have the same benefit. Before this legislation, state legislators had a budget of $600 for their district office, which barely covers the cost of an office space and utilities, nevermind other rising costs like postage.
I had hoped my first vote as State Representative would be on another subject matter, but this is a very important piece of legislation that has been delayed for decades because of the uncomfortable nature of it all.