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Date Posted: 15:23:45 10/14/07 Sun
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff | October 12, 2007
The Legislature closed the books yesterday on the fiscal year that ended July 1, agreeing to dramatically increase salaries for district attorneys, give cost-of-living raises to some of the state's top officials, including the governor, and funding more than $100 million in newly negotiated contracts with state employee unions.
The supplemental budget bill, which the governor is expected to sign into law, spent nearly $280 million of the roughly $520 million left over when the fiscal year ended. Most of the money went to cover unpaid bills and employee contracts, but the legislation also set aside $100 million for economic development and at least $50 million for the state's rainy day fund.
The bill also included about $450,000 for the governor's Washington, D.C., office, which aides said would roughly double its staff and help to secure more federal money for state transportation, healthcare, and educational needs.
House and Senate leaders wrangled for weeks over the legislation before reaching an agreement ahead of yesterday's vote. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said the bill ends the fiscal year on a "positive note," praising the decision to set aside money for economic development, including $43 million for a newly established renewable energy investment fund, $15 million for life sciences investment, and $15 million for investment in emerging technologies.
"Not only have we paid all our bills and funded worker contracts, but we have made smart, targeted investments that will stimulate the economy and drive the next wave of economic expansion in Massachusetts," Representative Robert A. DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat and the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, said in a statement after the vote.
Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, called the spending bill a "reasonable approach" to wrapping up the state's financial business for the 2007 fiscal year, and said it contained relatively little money for pet projects compared with previous years.
"They had to fund the collective bargaining agreements," he said, and the unpaid bills "were real. I think they've limited the amount of additional spending here; other years, it's been much more grandiose, if you will."
Republican leaders, however, objected to the spending, arguing that the money should be returned to cities and towns. House minority leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. said it was excessive, and "a means of soaking up the surplus."
The bill includes a provision to regularly increase the salaries of six of the state's top elected officials. Under a previously passed constitutional amendment, legislators get raises every two years that are tied to increases in median family income; the new legislation would give the state's leading elected officials the same benefit by law.
If enacted, the bill would provide a 4.8 percent increase over the current salary level, retroactive to July 1 of this year. That means the governor's salary would increase from $140,535 to $147,281; the attorney general's salary would increase from $127,523 to $133,644; and the salaries received by the secretary of state, lieutenant governor, auditor and treasurer would rise from $124,920 to $130,916.
The salary for district attorneys, which has not increased since 1999, would rise dramatically, 3 percent a year for each of the last nine years, raising the current salary of $117,499 to $144,509, retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. The number will increase to $148,844 in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2008.
"We've been talking about it for years," DeLeo said of the raise for district attorneys during an interview after yesterday's session. "We finally decided the only equitable thing to do for them was to address it at this point."
Republicans also objected to the notion that the state should spend more on lobbying in Washington. Taking a swipe at the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation, Jones told his colleagues yesterday that he thought the Democrats' takeover of Congress this year meant "what they would be able to do for Massachusetts would be a quantum leap forward" and additional lobbyists would not be necessary.
But Cyndi Roy, a spokeswoman for Governor Deval Patrick, said it would allow the office to do a better job representing the state in high-stakes, complex negotiations over expensive programs such as its Medicaid waiver and the children's health insurance program, both of which she considers critical to the success of the state's health reform law.
"There are major issues that we need to deal with next year, and having a focused voice and presence in DC will be integral to tackling those issues," Roy said.
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How long will it take now??? (NT) -- I see $$$ in our future!!!, 18:08:12 10/12/07 Fri
Re: How long will it take now??? -- TIME PROVES A POINT, 23:41:15 10/13/07 Sat
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally -- just a c/o, 21:26:08 10/12/07 Fri
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally (NT) -- Retro is part of the $50,000,000 MCOFU members get!, 10:31:29 10/13/07 Sat
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally -- me, 23:42:45 10/13/07 Sat
You're wrong... -- We WILL get 8% back to 10/06 and 3% more from 4/07, 13:43:51 10/14/07 Sun
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally -- UNION PLEASE ANSWER, 12:59:18 10/13/07 Sat
Re: Sounds Right (NT) -- Will take time to calculate and double check the figures!, 22:17:40 10/13/07 Sat
Ask a local steward or call the E-board. (NT) -- This site is for union busters not info., 23:44:58 10/13/07 Sat
Re: Ask a local steward or call the E-board. -- Moderator, 10:15:52 10/14/07 Sun
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally -- Probably the same people that...., 09:14:09 10/14/07 Sun
Re: GOOD NEWS...finally -- The newest rumor is...., 13:27:56 10/14/07 Sun
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