As Gov. Charlie Baker gears up to start his second term in January, he’s also looking at a hike of about $100,000 in salary and compensation.
To be fair, the increase in his total compensation package to about $250,000 is something Baker vetoed in early 2017 when he criticized the Legislature for approving an $18 million pay package with little debate or public input. That package boosted pay for lawmakers anywhere from 11 percent to 145 percent when you factor in base pay raises, stipends and extra pay for committee assignments.
At the time, the governor said the package “places an undue financial burden on the people of Massachusetts.”
The Legislature overrode his veto and lawmakers got their raises, although Baker didn’t take the increased amount. Fast forward to January 2019, when Baker will see – and accept – a salary hike from $151,800 per year to $185,000. Add in some $65,000 in housing allowance and the governor’s compensation hits $250,000.
A critic might scoff at Baker’s about-face, but at $151,800, he was only in the fair to middling range for governors. At last count, California Gov. Jerry Brown saw a pay hike this year from $195,000 to $201,686, before any benefits. But even in the Golden State, the governor plays at least third fiddle on the governmental pay chart. The city administrative officer for Los Angeles is paid about $269,000, and the chief executive for Los Angeles County is paid $382,190 per year. We assume those salaries also come with good parking spaces.
For the record, even the Legislature’s largesse left Baker far behind in the state salary sweepstakes. The highest-paid state employee in Massachusetts last year was Dr. Michael Collins, chancellor of the UMass Medical School, whose annual compensation is $984,000, according to the comptroller, who notes that UMass salaries are funded by public and private sources.
Baker might have wanted to reject his raise with that veto in 2017, but Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who at $194,850 is among the highest-paid state leaders in the U.S., donates his whole salary to charity, according to the NBC station in Philadelphia. That is something any governor could consider.
On the lowest end of the gubernatorial salary chart, Maine’s Paul LePage is paid a salary of $70,000, pay so low that last year he said in a WGAN radio interview that it made him feel like he was living an ascetic lifestyle.
“I feel like a priest or a nun, you know. You go into poverty to serve the public,” LePage said during his weekly telephone call-in from the Blaine House, the governor’s mansion in Augusta.
The governor’s mansion? On top of the $70,000 annual salary, the Maine governor gets to live in that mansion, gets a $30,000 personal expense account and $21,000 in other benefits. Although LePage has said he believes the governor’s salary should be increased to attract better candidates, he opposed a move to hike the pay to $150,000, something he would not benefit from anyway as he leaves office in January under term limits.
Baker doesn’t enjoy a governor’s mansion as a perk, but the $65,000 housing allowance might help pay the bills on his Swampscott home.
Massachusetts is one of a bare handful of states that don’t have an official residence for the governor. There were proposals in the 19th century for the state to buy mansions – including one once the home of John Hancock – but they failed. More recently, in the 1960s, Dedham town officials offered the 21-acre Endicott Estate to the commonwealth, according to The Boston Globe. Then-Gov. John Volpe took title to the mansion but before he moved in, it became clear it would cost as much as $1 million to renovate the place. Realizing the state could build a mansion for that amount at the time, the estate was handed back to the town of Dedham, thank you very much.
So, there won’t be an official residence for Charlie Baker in 2019, but there will be a decent raise and allowance, voted by the state Legislature. Baker may have been against the raise in 2017, but this Thanksgiving it appears to be something for which he can give thanks.