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January 4, 2013

$1,100 cut in pay for state lawmakers

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are taking a pay cut.

The 158 House and Senate legislators sworn in Wednesday will see their base pay drop in 2013 and 2014 by $1,100 compared to those who served during the past two-year session.

While dozens of legislators will receive extra pay tied to responsibilities assigned to them by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, the base pay for legislators has been reset to $60,032 a year. Many legislators also supplement their pay with income from other jobs.

The pay cut reflects a 1.8 percent decline in the median household income over the past two years as certified by Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday in a letter sent to Treasurer Steven Grossman and obtained by the News Service.

The governor based the calculation on the federal Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and other reports of average weekly wages in Massachusetts.

A constitutional amendment approved by Massachusetts voters in 1998 tied the salaries of legislators to changes in the average household income, causing wages to rise and fall every two years based on the strength of wages statewide. The governor is required to determine the rate of change at the start of each new two-year session.

A decrease of one-half of 1 percent in 2011 marked the first time since the change that lawmakers saw their salaries decrease. Previous increases in salary, such as the $3,200 raise lawmakers were entitled to in 2009, have put some lawmakers on the defensive as they mulled cuts to other areas of the state budget, prompting some to reject the raises or accept the money and donate it to local charities.

Patrick will also see his salary decrease by about $2,500 to $137,321 a year. The adjustment will be applied to all constitutional officers.

The decrease in pay for lawmakers comes after DeLeo and Murray recently doled out average 3 percent raises to all House aides and a smaller group of Senate staff, defending the expense as long overdue for staff that had gone as many as four years without a cost-of-living adjustment.

In addition to their base pay, dozens of lawmakers receive stipends ranging from $7,500 for some committee chairmen and vice chairmen to $35,000 for the House speaker and Senate president.

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