LETTER: Legislative Raises Were A ‘Fiscally Irresponsible Decision’

I am writing this letter to express my immense disappointment with the MA Legislature’s decision to override Governor Baker’s veto of Bill H.58, also known as the legislative pay hike with an estimated $18 million price tag.

While I am not surprised at the fiscally irresponsible decision, I am simply saddened by the priorities of those who supported this initiative (including each of Framingham’s legislators).

To me, this shows a fundamental disagreement on priorities between the voters and the legislature — and I believe that those who rushed this bill through the State House know exactly what I am talking about. That is why this was voted on with little debate and minimal time for public input. Voters know that increasing salaries and leadership stipends should not be one of the very first projects of the new session, let alone $18 million worth of increases.

There are countless other projects and priorities of the Commonwealth that that money could be used for, and that is precisely why this is a prime example of unscrupulous leadership.

While the main conversation buzzes around the pay increases, it also eliminates per diem travel allowances, and with that goes the per diem reporting requirements. Instead legislators will be allotted a stipend for travel and general office expenses based on your distance from the Statehouse. Those 50 miles or more from Beacon Hill will receive an addition $20,000 on top of their salaries. Those closer than 50 miles will receive $15,000.  This move is a step in the wrong direction, decreasing accountability, and that is alarming.

Another concern that the Boston Globe brought to my attention is that “Putting the judicial raises into the bill creates serious legal hurdles to any efforts to place the pay issue before the voters on the 2018 ballot. The state constitution bars referendums on judicial pay.” 

 In no way am I questioning the difficulty of the task of being a state legislator. I am deeply grateful for anyone who dedicates their time to public service. However, citizen governance was never meant to be one’s career, and this should not be a lucrative position. I do not believe that this bill is an appropriate way to address the pay of our legislators as it is essentially allowing them to vote on their own salaries, a luxury many voters across the Commonwealth do not have.
 
No matter how this bill is spun, it is a money grab at heart, and this bill is full of safeguards to avoid reversal and ensure a payout as soon as possible (hence the emergency preamble).
I would like to thank the bipartisan coalition of legislators in the House and Senate who voted No on this bill and also voted no on overriding the Governor’s veto. Thank you for acknowledging the poor timing of this bill and thank you for having a better sense of priority. 
 
I would also like to thank Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito. AG Healey, and our State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, as well as any other official who will not accept the pay increases.  People from all parties acknowledged this for what it was, a poorly-timed, poorly-executed money-grab, and the fight against this is not over.
While this bill was passed under the radar due to the recent activity in Washington, the public eye will soon turn to this issue and I fully expect to see opposition.
 
Thank you again to all those who dedicate their time to serving the greater good, and an even greater thank you to those who fought against this. 
 
Sincerely,
Jake Binnall

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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