Baker seeks pay raise for Massachusetts National Guard

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BOSTON (SHNS) – The minimum daily pay for soldiers and airmen performing state active duty in the National Guard would double to a highest in the nation $200 under legislation filed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker.

“The Massachusetts National Guard has a long history of answering calls for help from within the Commonwealth and beyond, so we are pleased to propose this appropriate pay increase for all of their hard work,” Baker said in a statement. “Modernizing our laws will better enable the Nation’s oldest militia to continue fulfilling its important missions, while ensuring the brave men and women of the Guard continue to lead the way with the highest of standards.”

National Guard troops help the state responding to blizzards and other natural disasters, and support law enforcement during large events.

The proposed pay raise would require a budget increase of $250,000, according to the National Guard.

Baker seeks pay raise for Massachusetts National Guard

There are about 6,300 members of the Army National Guard in Massachusetts and 2,100 in the Air Guard. The lower-ranking members receive the minimum daily rate.

In 2005, former Gov. Mitt Romney signed a military and veterans benefits bill that raised the minimum daily pay for guard members to $100, up from $75.

Baker announced his bill in Memorial Hall of Flags during a celebration of guard members’ heroism and marksmanship on the National Guard’s 381st birthday.

“We’re going to file that legislation today. And we look forward to working with our colleagues across the hall and downstairs and upstairs from our office to see if we can’t get that done sometime before you all close up shop at the end of July,” Baker said. “It would be a terrific win for the men and women in the guard if we could find a way to get that one done.”

Major Chad Cormier, of the Massachusetts National Guard, described actions taken by Staff Sgt. Daniel Papagno, Sgt. First Class Jason Lacerda, and Capt. David Wilson that earned them medals at Wednesday’s ceremony.

Papagno helped a Worcester police officer struggling with a suspect with a loaded firearm in October 2014. Lacerda removed an injured driver whose vehicle was overturned on Route 24 southbound in March 2016. Last January, Wilson helped children and a disoriented adult off a Metco school bus that had crashed and was wedged between a rock ledge and guard rail on Interstate 95.

The bill would also establish the Massachusetts Code of Military Justice, which Major General Gary Keefe, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts Guard, said would give commanders the “tools required to maintain good order and discipline.”

A new set of military crimes for guard members in state service would mirror the Uniform Code of Military Justice, under the legislation that establishes procedures for a courts-martial for certain military offenses.

A guard member in state service who commits certain crimes on a Massachusetts military base cannot be prosecuted by state officials or military justice officers under the existing law, according to according to Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett.

“There hasn’t been a problem, but potentially there could be a problem, and that’s the issue,” Bennett told the News Service.
The new state crimes include desertion, absence without leave, espionage, drunken operation of a vehicle, dueling, malingering and rioting, according to the administration. Massachusetts is one of a “handful” of states that do not have a state code of military justice.