Mass. lawmakers to get 1.8 percent cut in pay

Massachusetts lawmakers, constitutional officers to get 1.8 percent cut in pay

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Members of the newly sworn-in Massachusetts Legislature will earn a little less money over the next couple of years, because of a drop in the state's median household income.

Gov. Deval Patrick and other constitutional officers will also get a small pay cut.

In a letter Thursday to state Treasurer Steven Grossman, Patrick certified that the median household income in Massachusetts, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau and average weekly wages, decreased by 1.8 percent over the last two years.

A 1998 amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution ties increases or decreases in the base pay of legislators to median household income.

The 1.8 percent reduction means the annual base pay for state representatives and senators, which had been $61,133, will fall about $1,100 in the two-year session that began on Wednesday.

Many legislators, however, earn bonuses of up to $7,500 for committee chairmanships or floor posts. They are also entitled to per diem payments for travel to and from their districts to the Statehouse.

This will be the second consecutive legislative session in which base pay has been reduced, a reflection of the slumping economy in recent years. It fell by 0.5 percent, or $307, in 2011 after a corresponding drop in household income.

By contrast, Patrick in 2009 certified a 5.5 percent raise, though he did not accept the increase himself and a number of legislators also refused it.

The governor's current salary of just under $140,000 a year would be reduced by about $2,500. A 2007 state law also tied the pay of constitutional officers, including the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state and auditor, to household income.

Legislative pay has long been a source of controversy on Beacon Hill; before 1998, it was determined by lawmakers themselves.

A public furor followed passage of the infamous "Halloween" pay raise of 1980, when lawmakers approved a $1,800 pay raise during an Oct. 31 session. Massachusetts voters later overturned the increase in a referendum, leading to a series of proposals to reform the process, which led to the constitutional amendment.

There are 40 senators and 160 representatives in the Legislature. Two House seats are currently vacant.

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