STUPID VOTERS. Why do they have to make such a fuss every time we try to raise our pay? We're the Massachusetts Legislature, for crying out loud. It's ridiculous that we only make $30,000 a year. Everybody knows we deserve a lot more than that. We should be getting $50,000. Why won't the public mind its own business and let us take care of our salaries ourselves?
Stupid voters. Don't they realize some of us spend tens of thousands of dollars on campaigns to get elected? And re-elected? Term after term? If we're willing to spend what it takes to keep running for office, the least we deserve is a salary that makes it worthwhile. Nobody's going to want to make a career in politics if the money's no good.
Stupid voters. They're so closed-minded on this subject. How can any self-respecting person survive on what we make? We're only paid a lousy $30,000 a year. Plus that $2,400 expense allowance. Plus that mileage "per diem" of up to $50 a day. Plus the bonus pay -- as much as $15,000 a year -- for the several dozen of us who are in the "leadership," and an extra $35,000 for the House speaker and the Senate president. Plus that federal tax write-off for state legislators who live 50 miles or more from the State House -- $ 139 for every day of the year, more than enough to offset our entire income. That's all we get. It's not enough.
Stupid voters. Two weeks ago they voted to put all of us under term limits. Now the longest we can stay in these jobs is eight years. There's going to be constant turnover -- new people will be entering state government from the private sector, serving a few years, and then going back. Are the voters really gullible enough to swallow this "citizen legislator" nonsense? Beacon Hill isn't for amateurs. It's for professional politicians, and we should be paid like professionals.
Stupid voters. They ought to stop griping about us so much and take a look at California. Legislators there are paid $52,000 a year. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, they get $47,000. Even a rinky-dink state like Wisconsin pays $35,000. We're only getting the 11th-highest salary among the 50 state legislatures; why do the people begrudge us a little more? We're the Massachusetts Legislature, for crying out loud. If we don't act on this, we'll end up as underpaid as legislators in Connecticut, who get only $16,760 a year. Or in Vermont ($8,160). Or Maine ($7,125). Or Rhode Island ($300). Or, God help us, New Hampshire -- a hundred bucks a year, and that's it.
Stupid voters. Don't they understand that you get what you pay for? If the salary for elected officials doesn't stay reasonably high, how will state government attract top-quality people -- like us? If inflation keeps eroding the value of our salaries, soon the people running for office won't be doing it for the money. The place will fill up with idealists and selfless citizens and good-government types. Beacon Hill would be a nightmare.
Stupid voters. Will somebody please tell them we work a full-time job and deserve a full-time paycheck? True, 43 other state legislatures manage to complete all their business in just a few months each year, but that's impossible here. What's gotten into the Globe and the Herald? They keep clamoring for a mandatory six-month legislative session. How did the Herald put it? "Legislating is not a year-round, nonstop endeavor. Nearly every other state has figured that out. It's time Massachusetts followed suit." Oh, please! We'd love to be out of here by July. Unfortunately, doing the job right means waiting until the last minute, then pulling all-nighters during Christmas week. That's just the way it is.
Stupid voters. Whether they like it or not, we're going to get more money. We could ram a pay raise through at midnight when nobody's watching (See under: Halloween 1979). We could attach a raise for ourselves to a judicial pay bill, which is constitutionally immune to a referendum challenge -- it worked during the infamous "feeding frenzy" in 1982. Or maybe we'll do what we did in 1987: Pass a bill in the spring hiking our pay by 37 percent, make it retroactive to Jan. 1, and attach an "emergency preamble" so it goes into effect the minute it's signed. That way, even if the voters eventually repeal it (as they did in 1988 by an obnoxious 83-17 landslide), we still get to collect the higher pay for a full two years!
Stupid voters. They might as well face it: This is a done deal. The top guys in this place -- Charlie Flaherty, Billy Bulger, Tom Birmingham -- are talking about it openly, not even being coy. They want more money, and so do the rest of us. It's our top priority. The public isn't going to stop us. We're the Massachusetts Legislature, for crying out loud. And who, after all, are they?
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)