Budget rider gives pay raise to governor’s councilors

$10,000 Pay raises for the Governor's Council

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BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The eight independently elected members of the Governor’s Council would see their pay rise $10,000, bringing it up to $36,025 under a proposal tucked into the state budget that’s on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.

The Boston Herald featured the pay raise on its front page Thursday with the headline, “Money for nothing!”

The pay bump was filed by Rep. Chris Markey, a Dartmouth Democrat, lawyer and former prosecutor. It was blended into a “consolidated amendment” in the House and survived closed-door House-Senate conference committee deliberations that concluded Tuesday night. The House and Senate quickly ratified the conference committee’s budget proposal (H 3650) on Wednesday.

Markey said he had been impressed by the preparation councilors performed before hearings and had testified himself before the body, including in favor of Josh Wall’s appointment as Parole Board chairman, which cleared the council 5-3.

Markey also said he was motivated by the lengthy period of time since the last raise for the council and because it involves money he said the budget seemed a good mechanism.

“It went through the budget process like any other amendment,” Markey said.

Gov. Charlie Baker has 10 days to review the budget, which was enacted on Wednesday. Baker is expected to sign the bill and will likely return some pieces of it to the Legislature with vetoes or amendments.

The council received a $1,025 raise over Gov. Mitt Romney’s veto in 2006, and before that the pay rose from $15,600 to $25,000 in 2000, according to law books.

Pay for the council would rise $5,000 once the budget takes effect and another $5,000 next January.

The eight-member council publicly interviews, sometimes deliberates and ultimately votes on judicial nominees in one of the final stages toward an attorney becoming a judge. Next to statewide office-holders the councilors have the largest districts of any elected official in Massachusetts and generally meet once a week, on Wednesdays.

Markey said he has no desire to ever appear before the council himself as a judicial nominee.

“I don’t want to be a referee, meaning I don’t want to be a judge. I have no desire,” Markey told the News Service.

The panel dates back to the Colonial era when it had greater powers, and it is from time to time targeted for elimination. Leland Cheung, who ran for lieutenant governor last year and would have presided over the council if he had been successful in the election, made elimination of the council one of the planks in his platform.

Defenders of the council argue it provides a public process for judicial nominations, adds accountability for those who approve judgeships, and avoids a process exhibited in other states where judges run for office.

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