- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

BOSTON (AP) - Lawmakers heard testimony Thursday on a more than 2-year-old report recommending hefty pay raises for the governor, other constitutional officers and top lawmakers - as critics questioned the timing of the hearing so close to the presidential inauguration.

The report suggests hiking the governor’s annual salary from $151,800 to $185,000 with a new, yearly $65,000 housing allowance. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states without an official governor’s residence or housing allowance.

The report also recommends increasing the salary for the attorney general and state treasurer to $175,000. The attorney general now draws a $130,582 salary. The treasurer earns $127,917.

Ira Jackson, chairman of the Special Advisory Commission on Public Official Compensation said one goal of the higher pay is to attract and retain qualified individuals to public service and help make sure they’re not tempted to betray the public trust.

“We also believe that personal wealth should not be a prerequisite or qualification for public service,” he said.

Critics questioned the timing of the hearing, which was announced just two days ago by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, both Democrats.

“What’s the rush? The commission first released its recommendations in 2008, again in 2014. No hearings were scheduled. Until now January 19th in the opening days of this new legislative session. A day before the inauguration of a new president of the United States of America when all eyes will be on Washington,” the group Citizens for Limited Taxation said in written statement.

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that the Republican governor and lieutenant governor “have no plans to accept a pay increase and will carefully review any legislation that comes to the governor’s desk.”

The report recommends raising the salary of the House speaker and Senate president from their 2016 salary of $102,233 to $175,000, but it doesn’t recommend increasing the pay of other lawmakers.

The panel made other recommendations, including a ban on earning outside income for the six statewide officeholders and the Senate president and House speaker and eliminating per diem payments lawmakers can receive to help cover the cost of traveling to the Statehouse.

Instead, each lawmaker would receive $10,000 in office expenses if they live within 50 miles of the Statehouse and $15,000 if they live farther away.

Massachusetts lawmakers just received a pay raise at the start of 2017 with the annual base compensation for members of the House and Senate going from the current $60,032 to $62,547, an increase of about 4.2 percent. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito declined the increase.

Under a 1998 amendment to the state constitution, salaries for legislators are tied to changes in the median household income for Massachusetts residents during the previous two-year period.

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