BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill Thursday calling for nearly $18 million in annual pay raises for top legislators, statewide elected officials and judges.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 31-9 in favor of the legislation a day after the House approved the measure by a 115-44 vote. A handful of Democrats joined Republicans in both chambers in opposing the bill.
The bill doesn’t change the $62,547 annual base pay for lawmakers, but does increase additional stipends paid to Democratic and Republican leaders and to the chairs of key legislative committees.
The annual salary for House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats, would climb about $45,000 to more than $142,000 a year, while the heads of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees would get a $35,000 raise.
The bill also would boost Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s annual salary from $151,800 to $185,000, and for the first time provide the governor a $65,000 housing allowance.
Other constitutional officers, including the attorney general and state treasurer, would also get substantial raises, and annual salaries for judges would increase by $25,000.
Rosenberg defended the increase, saying lawmakers are being forced out of office because of the low pay.
“We are losing young people every election cycle.” Rosenberg said. “Particularly the younger members who are trying to start families and start their career, they cannot live on this.”
Baker wouldn’t say Wednesday if he would sign the bill but said he’s not sure the pay raise makes sense.
The bill passed by wide enough margins in both chambers to override a veto.
The Senate rejected a Republican amendment that would have delayed the start of the pay raises for two years. Most of the raises would become effective immediately.
Critics faulted the bill’s timing, which comes as Beacon Hill is working to keep the state budget balanced.
The group Citizens for Limited Taxation called on Baker to veto the bill, criticizing lawmakers for rushing through the legislation. DeLeo and Rosenberg first announced their intention to revisit the issue just last week.
“These cynical actions demonstrate that when the leadership and enough beholding members in the Legislature want something badly enough they just take it,” said Chip Ford, the group’s executive director.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a possible Democratic challenger to Baker in 2018, also slammed what he called a “rushed-through pay raise plan.”
The measure also would end travel allowances for legislators in favor of a single annual lump sum payment to cover all expenses: $15,000 for those who live within 50 miles of the Statehouse and $20,000 for all others.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports