January 29, 2017

On Beacon Hill: It’s all about the raise … but, no trouble?!

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Antonio Caban / State House News Service

In a week that began with overtures of collaboration and ended in a split between the executive and legislative branches on the first major piece of legislation in the new session, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker repeatedly praised the positive working relationship he has with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which could soon override a veto issued Friday on pay hike legislation.

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

BOSTON — You get a raise. And you get a raise. And you get a raise!

These may not have been the exact words used by House and Senate Democratic leaders when they pitched their caucus on a controversial $18 million package of pay hikes for lawmakers, constitutional officers and judges, but it might have been just as effective as whatever was said.

The House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday passed the big pay raise package as their first major order of business this session with veto-proof majorities. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, blasting the scale of the raise and the process used to ram it through, but only 12 Democrats joined the cause.

So when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker finally spoke up on Thursday night against the bill and vetoed it Friday morning, the confrontation between Baker and Beacon Hill Democrats felt more like political theater than a full-on escalation of hostilities.

The governor didn’t do much to change that, prefacing his comments on the veto much the way he began and ended his State of the Commonwealth address earlier in the week — with praise for the Legislature as a partner in bipartisan compromise that he hopes will continue.

It was as if Baker meant to say, “I’m sorry, guys. I have to do this. Please understand.”

Any other week, and the news cycle might have belonged to Baker. The governor Tuesday night delivered a well-received address before the Legislature and a day later filed the first budget proposal in state history to top $40 billion in spending — $40.5 billion, to be more precise.

Baker’s address ran through scores of accomplishments, from big to small, over the first two years of his administration. Though he once again put his foot down against new broad-based taxes, the speech was light on policy initiatives — a $4,000 tax credit for businesses hiring veterans — and heavy on paying homage to the power of cooperation and the contrast between the politics of Washington, D.C., and those at home.

“Wedge issues may be great for making headlines, but they do not move this Commonwealth forward. Success is measured by what we accomplish together,” Baker said, an ironic comment given his high-profile veto of the pay raise bill just days later.

— Matt Murphy

OFF THE TOP

No more for Sen. Moore

Millbury Sen. Michael Moore, one of only three Democrats to vote against the measure, said last week he would not accept a pay hike.

Courtesy Sen. Micheal O. Moore's office

State Sen. Mike Moore

“While I recognize the merits of updating compensation formulas that have remained widely unaltered for years, or even decades, I do not feel comfortable accepting the level of compensation authorized by this legislation,” Moore said in a statement.

State Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, who also voted against the pay raise bill, suggested that to oppose the bill and then accept the money would be hypocrisy.

“You can’t be hypocritical,” she said. “If you vote no, you shouldn’t take the dough, so I won’t take the money.”

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Baker decries ‘irresponsible’ timing, breadth of pay raise bill, as GOP targets veto protection
  • Video: Reaction to $18M in salary hikes
  • Political insider sees pendulum swinging in Republicans’ favor
  • State economic growth expected to remain stagnant
  • Advocates laud Baker plans to fund transition services for disabled young adults

THE BIG DEAL

Baker rips raises as Republicans look to flip freshman Dems, jeopardize override


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