Governor Deval Patrick formally announced today that he will trim lawmakers’ salaries, cutting them by $300 to match the drop in pay experienced by typical Massachusetts households over the past two years.
The law requires the governor to adjust legislators’ salaries every two years, but this is the first time since voters passed the constitutional amendment in 1998 requiring the adjustment that salaries will go down instead of up.
The 0.5 percent pay cut to lawmakers’ $61,440 base salaries carries more symbolism than economic consequences, as the savings will hardly register any impact to the state’s $1.5 billion budget gap. Several legislators said last week they were expecting the cut and, to some extent, welcoming it, given the harsh economy facing their constituents. The pay cut does not affect the thousands of dollars in added pay that many state lawmakers receive for holding leadership positions or for driving themselves to the State House.
By law, Patrick’s $140,535 salary will also go down – by about $700 -- as a result of the change.
The amendment – which took authority away from lawmakers to set their own salaries -- requires the governor to set salaries based on changes in median household income within the state. But because Census numbers lag behind by a year, it is up to the governor and his staff to use alternate economic measures, giving Patrick some leeway in his decision.
Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, used a combination of Census figures and wage data gathered by the state, the same method he used two years ago to give lawmakers a 5.5 percent raise. That $3,203 raise in 2009 was politically difficult for some lawmakers, leading some to reject it. In retrospect, it may have been too low. Census figures not available until after the raise showed median household income in the state actually rose by more than 9 percent between 2006 and 2008, meaning the raise probably should have been even larger, about $5,300.
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