To the editor:
The recent letters by Meredith Fine and Bob Stewart regarding the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance’s educational mailer highlighting state Rep. Ann Margaret Ferrante’s vote to raise her own pay are nothing more than an attempt to “shoot the messenger” without disputing any of the facts contained in the mailer. They focus their attention on critiquing the tax status of the organization, while trying to deflect attention away from Ferrante’s vote to pad her salary and pension.
To begin, the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is a registered non-partisan, nonprofit organization, which has been given its stamp of approval by the IRS and complies with federal and state law. Its mission is to hold lawmakers accountable on taxes, spending, the budget and transparency through advocacy and thank goodness it does. The politicians who rammed through this pay raise vote had no intention of explaining to their constituents the merits for their 40 percent pay raise.
Rep. Ferrante, while claiming to vote on behalf of Gloucester, was only helping herself in this instance, as she voted a pay raise for herself from $67,000 per year in 2016 to $107,000 per year in 2017. Of course, every dollar Rep. Ferrante makes is paid for by the taxpayers. How many of you can give yourself a $40,000 raise in one year, which includes a $30,000 “leadership stipend” and also pads your pension? The median income in Gloucester for a person age 45-65 is roughly $75,000, which means Rep. Ferrante is heavily outearning us, and WE are paying HER salary.
What is truly worse is the way this vote was taken. The speaker made it their first vote of the session, even before they took the vote on what rules would govern the session. There were no public hearings to debate where the money would come from to pay for the raises. Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the raise and called it “fiscally irresponsible” at the time. Rep. Ferrante and others overrode the governor’s veto to ensure their raise becomes the law.
When Ferrante and others voted for their money grab pay raise, they attached the bill to an emergency preamble, which is a Statehouse gimmick to make it almost impossible for the citizens to repeal it and it allows them to collect the raise immediately. To ensure they get the most money as soon as possible, they added an amendment that makes the raise retroactive to Jan. 1, this way they have every opportunity to make sure this year is a good year for their wallets.
Lastly, they set up expense allowances of up to $20,000. These expenses allowances count toward their pensions. Nowhere in the private sector do company expense allowances count toward your retirement but in Beacon Hill, that doesn’t sound irresponsible.
You’ll also hear from Rep. Ferrante that it was a “long-overdue” pay increase. That is also a lie. Rep. Ferrante has received a 2 percent pay increase in her salary each year. I’d like to remind Rep. Ferrante that being a state representative is meant to be a part-time job, and that the path to wealth is not supposed to be on the backs of the taxpayers. She’s pulling in a big salary while Gloucester families are struggling to pay their bills, largely because she has also voted for every tax increase that has come before her in the past eight years, which they are now footing the bill on.
The message about what Rep. Ferrante has done is not pretty, but the fault lies with Rep. Ferrante, not with Mass Fiscal Alliance.
Amanda Orlando Kesterson
Republican State Committeewoman, 1st Essex and Middlesex District
Chairwoman, Gloucester Republican City Committee