Today the House passed whopping pay increases for themselves and other elected officeholders and members of the judiciary. Both the Senate President and the House Speaker are big winners in this bill, with their salaries increasing by more than half.
In addition, the measure eliminates per diem travel allowances. Instead, lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from the Statehouse will receive an additional $20,000 and lawmakers who live closer would receive $15,000 for travel and general office expenses. Eliminating per diems, means their reporting requirements would be included. Per diem reports are frequent fodder for candidates challenging incumbents, as padding the reports isn't uncommon among unscrupulous lawmakers. The measure also provides for automatic increases in the salaries every other year.
The Senate is expected to take up the pay increases tomorrow.
Legislative watchers say the pay raise is being rushed through right at the start of a new session to allow the voters plenty of time to forget the vote before elections.
Lest you think the rush to raise salaries means we've solved the state's fiscal woes, know that legislative leaders continue to push for Prop 80, a new graduated income tax rate scheme that will increase taxes by 80 percent for the state's top earners.
MassFiscal opposes both the pay raise and Prop. 80. To check on how your legislator voted, see below.
As a new session begins, lawmakers meet to decide on the rules for the next session.
The Massachusetts legislature has a reputation for hiding its work behind closed doors. We wonder, what’s the big secret? They’re ignoring technological advances that could mean an informed public, and manipulating outcomes by fast-tracking complicated legislation. Updating the rules could change that reputation, and better lawmaking would be the result.
Increasing transparency and accountability on Beacon Hill is a key part of MassFiscal's mission, to that end, please join us in calling for more transparency in the statehouse and complete our Call to Action that highlights our top 3 reforms for the Rules debate. CLICK HERE to get started.
For more reform ideas, please see below:
- Make all votes available to the public and online. Currently, joint committee votes are not available online, the legislature should post them online and in real-time.
- The legislature should broadcast all committee hearings and Senate and House informal sessions on the Legislature’s website
- Allow the public and lawmakers at least 24 hours to review a bill before they are expected to vote on it. It is paramount to read what’s in a bill before it’s debated and to that end, the legislature should require a minimum of 24 hour review time of bills being considered by joint committee members before a vote.
- Issue a joint resolution on the minimum amount of aid to cities and town no later than March 31 of each year.
- Consider no bill in informal session unless it has been posted on the Legislature’s website at least 24 hours in advance and has received a public hearing or discharge vote by its committee of jurisdiction.
- Conclude no committee executive session or poll if a member has requested the text of a legislative matter being taken up, and had not yet been provided the text.
- Provide members of joint committees with the text of bills before the beginning of an executive session or poll.
- Require that a conference committee report be filed at 5 p.m. (with text available on the legislature’s website) for the report to be considered the next day.
On January 1st, the Massachusetts pay floor (minimum wage) incurred its third consecutive increase to $11, from $10 in 2016. While some labor unions and far left progressive organizations praise the increase as a right step towards a living wage, many representing the business community, including the Associated Industries of America (AIM), worry that this will ultimately hurt the same employees it’s supposed to help as companies are forced to lay off workers to make up for paying the higher minimum wage. The state's minimum wage is highest of all the 50 states.
Despite Massachusetts already being the highest state, organized labor groups are pushing to increase the minimum wage to $15 because union contracts are based on the minimum wage. According to AIM and the Employment Policy Institute, a $15 minimum wage would drive up the compensation costs for three quarters of state employers. The effects of this would be severe. Organized labor groups claim that a $15 minimum wage would grow the state economy, since workers making minimum wage utilize local services. However, the sheer cost to employers would result in reduced hours and lay-offs, passing along higher costs to consumers, or even leaving the state altogether which would lead to a weaker economy in the long run. In other words, as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote, the minimum wage laws are filled with good intentions, but "Bad Results."
Retail consumers are seeing a growing trend in fast food restaurants as more and more are implementing kiosks to take orders and eventually replace minimum wage jobs. Additionally, Massachusetts is only one of a few states that requires some employers to pay time and a half on Sundays, raising the minimum wage would have a devastating impact to those businesses, jobs and employs if further arbitrary increases went into effect.
The New York Times editorial page once described the minimum wage as "old, honorable and fundamentally flawed," those words are still true. Countless national studies lead to the same conclusion, increasing the minimum wage results in less jobs for those that need it the most. Our website provides several studies on the minimum wage.