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State legislators in Massachusetts receive a uniform base salary--$61,440 as of 2010. Massachusetts is one of 10 states with full-time legislatures, although "CommonWealth" magazine reported in 2010 that 60 percent of Massachusetts legislators report outside income. When the Council of State Government studied legislative salaries in 2007, Massachusetts was below median for states with professional legislators but well above median for all states. However, average salary figures don’t provide a full picture of what Massachusetts representatives receive.
The Massachusetts constitution ties pay raises for state legislators to changes in the state’s median household income. The state sets their salaries every two years. State senators and the members of the House of Representatives received a 5.5 percent raise to $61,440 in 2009. Their salaries can go up or down.
The House of Representatives has 160 members, and about 40 percent of them get salary bonuses ranging from $7,500 to $35,000 for serving in leadership positions. This includes committee chairmen, some vice chairmen and party leaders. The House Speaker gets $35,000.
Each legislator receives $600 a month for expenses, $7,200 a year. In addition, they can claim daily “per diem” payments of $10 to $100, depending on where they live, whenever the Massachusetts Legislature is in session. The House doesn’t meet every day but remains in session all year. TV station WCVB reports a Boston representative, who receives $10 per day for travel to the State House, claimed 251 days of per diem payments in 2008 for a total of $2,510. A representative from western Massachusetts claimed 177 days and collected $15,930 at $90 per day. Representatives don’t need to account for expenses or demonstrate that they did travel to the State House to receive their expense allowances or per diem payments.
Federal Tax Break
The IRS allows federal tax deductions to state legislators who live more than 50 miles from the state capital for days when the legislature is in session. In a report that aired in February 2010, WCVB said it tried to contact 54 state legislators eligible for the deduction and most didn’t respond, but nine confirmed that they’d used the tax break. Two said they’d paid no federal taxes as a result.
Free Parking and Other Benefits
Each representative receives a free parking space in Boston. They also receive a full benefits package for state employees, including health insurance and a retirement plan. In 2008, a former representative set the value of the parking space at $1,260 when she argued unsuccessfully that her expense allowance, per diem payments and the parking space should be included when the state calculated her pension. The state later began treating legislators’ expense allowances and per diem as income and deducting taxes, which could affect pension decisions in the future.
- "CommonWealth" Magazine: Legislative Pay--The Wages of Sausage-making
- Wicked Local Dedham: Fiscal Observers Mull Possible Pay Cut for State Lawmakers
- Wicked Local Cambridge: Beacon Hill Roll Call: Rushing Highest Paid State Rep in Cambridge
- WCVBTV Boston: Top Legislators Getting Per Diem
- WCVBTV Boston: Some State Reps Pay Little or No Federal Income Tax
- Mass.Gov: Marie Parente v. State Board of Retirement, CR-07-187 (DALA, 2008)
Nan East began writing professionally in 1978 and worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers. Her work has appeared in the "Patriot Ledger" and other newspapers. She has awards from the New England Press Association and Suburban Newspapers of America and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Wheaton College.