Jan. 3, 2011 (Updated Jan. 4, 2011)
BOSTON — There is little opposition to Gov. Deval Patrick's plan to shrink the paychecks of the state's legislators -- except for some lawmakers and watchdogs who say the cuts aren't big enough.
On Monday afternoon, Patrick announced that he'll make a $300 cut to lawmakers' base salary of $61,440 in accordance with a constitutional amendment that gives the governor the right to change legislators’ salaries every two years in correspondence with changes in the incomes of Massachusetts families.
The pay cut, which amounts to about 0.5 percent for state House and Senate members, is the first since the amendment was passed in 1998, when voters rebelled against lawmakers’ tradition of setting their own salaries and handed that decision to the state’s chief executive.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued a statement saying he understood the rationale behind the cut. "This decision reflects the public's vote from more than a decade ago on legislative pay and is not unexpected, given the current economic climate," DeLeo said.
But Rep.-elect Dan Winslow, a Norfolk Republican, says the cut is too small. "The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation actually indicated that it should be closer to a 3 percent cut, so that if people are hurting, people are suffering, if the economy is hurting we don’t want that to be an academic question for legislators," Winslow said. "We want legislators to feel the people’s pain. And if they feel the people’s pain, perhaps it’ll help focus their efforts to, to solve it."
Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a five-year Democratic legislator from Boston, says the cut is appropriate -- but emphasized the importance of lawmakers having enough money to live on. "I don't have a problem in terms of taking a pay cut," Forrey said, "I do think though, a lot of times people don't quite understand the work that we do. And I think it's important our salaries be a livable wage, so we don't create a system or situation where only independently wealthy people run for office."
The legislative pay decrease does not affect tens of thousands of dollars in bonus pay that many state lawmakers receive for holding leadership positions. Legislators are also paid for driving themselves to the State House. None of the pay cuts will have any discernible impact on the state’s 1.5 billion dollar budget deficit.