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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tone deaf

Just because House Speaker Robert DeLeo has horrible timing doesn't mean he's wrong. But his largess to staff should also be extended to human service workers.

DeLeo and Senate President Terry Murray announced they intend to offer 3 percent raises to staff (Murray's holiday spirit extends only to her direct staff and not all upper chamber employees). The announcement comes as Deval Patrick said state revenues are running behind projection and budget cuts may be in order.

DeLeo says there are fewer House employees than when he took over nearly four years ago and they have not seen a raise since September 2008. The vast majority earn between $33,000 and $42,000 annually, meaning the increase will cost $764,000, taken from the existing House budget.
“When you consider that it’s been at least four years, and you’re talking about a 3 percent raise, something had to be done,” DeLeo said. “A lot of these folks are having difficulty that I hear from them and the reps paying their own bills now. So I consider it something we needed to do so they could continue to exist themselves.”
A noble sentiment to be sure, especially in this season of giving. Contrary to popular demonization,  most legislative employees work hard, often for extended hours -- something that cannot always be said for their much-better paid bosses, the elected representatives.

And while there's never a good time to announce pay hikes, this timing has managed to offend those on both the right and left.
“The Legislature shouldn’t be giving their staff pay raises,” said Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “They should be dealing with mass deficits that are going to get worse.”
Anderson's reaction is entirely predictable. So too is that of Michael Weekes, president and chief executive of the Providers’ Council, which advocates for workers making $25,000 while caring for the infirm and who also have not seen a raise since 2008.
“There’s no sense of a shared sacrifice here. Why are the lowest-paid people taking it on the chin?”
The difference is that Weekes has a strong case. If lawmakers are truly concerned about hard-working people struggling to pay bills after four years of a tough economy, they should offer the same opportunity for those whose provide direct care for our most vulnerable citizens.

The looming budget issues on the state and national level are serious. But workers should not be made pawns in that game. I'm sure there's enough to cut from tax breaks for businesses who do not need them to put food on the table and keep the lights on.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not just raise the minimum wage to say $25.00 an hour. The Dems are in total control in this state and then all hard working lower wage people would be taken care of at the same time? It would stimulate spending because people would have more in their pockets. Tax revenue would go up.

November 27, 2012 9:11 AM  

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